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Old 02-09-2009, 10:20 PM   #1 (permalink)
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EVs to stabilize grid?

PHILADELPHIA -- Willett Kempton drives an uncommon car.

The body is a Toyota Scion. The innards have been stripped of their "greasy parts," and replaced by massive batteries and other electrical components.

The resulting vehicle, developed by Kempton, a renewable-energy professor at the University of Delaware, can hit 95 miles an hour and go 120 miles before charging.

As impressive as those numbers are, the car's real benefit is that it's not just a user of energy.

It's also a provider.

The battery in this new breed of electric car can both give and receive, taking a charge and then, through the same electrical cord, sending some of its stored energy back to a hungry electricity grid, as needed.

Kempton's is currently the only such two-way electric car in a regional grid that spans Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and some or all of 11 other states, along with the District of Columbia.

But add a few million more _ as Kempton and others predict will happen, perhaps within the decade _ and things begin to look a whole lot different.

Suddenly, the nation's automobiles are no longer just a transportation option, but a network of mini-storage devices for electricity.

One car might even power a few nearby homes for a while if the wires go down in a storm.

"Energy storage is not only a nexus between these two titans _ the energy and auto industries _ it's a game-changer," said Edward Kjaer, director of electric transportation for the Southern California Edison utility.

He spoke recently at an electric-car summit at the Valley Forge, Pa., offices of PJM Interconnection, the region's grid operator.

More than a dozen electric utilities were there, along with three other grid operators, two automakers, plus a bevy of think tanks, government agencies, and other electric organizations.

They touted the plug-in car as a way to reduce emissions that cause global warming, save customers money, and wean the U.S. off foreign oil.

But most of all, they focused on how the next generation of plug-ins could solve a problem that has plagued the electricity industry: energy storage.

Unlike the water supply system, which has reservoirs to balance supply and demand, the electric system must balance input and output on a near-instantaneous basis.

Right now, the wizardlike grid operator sends pulses of information every two to four seconds to coal-fired and natural-gas plants in the system, telling them to rev up production. Or slow down.

That prevents the plants from operating most efficiently, much the way a car guzzles more gas when it speeds up and slows down constantly instead of cruising in its sweet spot of fuel efficiency.

Supporters see the new plug-in vehicles as a stabilizing addition. They envision thousands or millions of car batteries taking electricity from the grid during low-demand periods, such as overnight, and sending electricity back into the grid at times of heavy demand.

It could help the industry shave the peaks _ important, because the whole system has to be sized for the highest demands to avoid brownouts _ and fill the valleys, when some power plants might otherwise be slow.

This ability will become far more important, experts say, as the nation moves to increased power from fickle wind and solar sources, which fluctuate with every gust and passing cloud.

How many cars will it take? Even thousands would be a good start, said PJM's president and chief executive officer, Terry Boston. At the top end, his grid system, which serves 51 million people, could handle 25 million cars in its off-peak hours.

Kempton's car is a research project owned by the University of Delaware. It's dubbed the MAGICC car _ after the initials of the Mid-Atlantic Grid Interactive Cars Consortium, formed to further develop, test and demonstrate the technology.

As a custom job, the car cost about $70,000, Kempton said. But he estimated that on the mass market, such a car would cost about $5,000 more than its gas counterpart.

What gives it a financial edge is that electric "fuel" costs a fraction of gasoline.

Better still, the car owners could be paid for the electricity they return, perhaps enough to earn back the cost of the car in a few years.

Most owners use their cars just one hour a day. In a "vehicle-to-grid" world, "the other 23 hours, that device belongs to the system," said Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Supporters cited a confluence of events that are boosting the advent of electric vehicles.

Towns are planning. Austin, Texas, is considering adding plugs to its parking meters. San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose have announced plans to pursue a joint charging infrastructure.

The technology is getting there. Chevrolet is coming out with its first plug-in vehicle, the Volt ("more than just a car" is its slogan), in November 2010. (It won't be able to give back, but future versions likely will.)

By one official's count, about 15 other electric-car projects are due out between then and 2012.

President Obama was surely the first to refer to the grid in an inaugural address.

"It's gone beyond the nice science fair project," said Arshad Mansoor, a vice president of the nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute.

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Old 02-10-2009, 07:50 PM   #2 (permalink)
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V2G (Vehicle to Grid) is a great idea - in concept.

The trouble is that it's pretty tough to get anybody to do anything unless you give them a very good reason to (government money for example)

Lot's of small distributed energy is much better than central power in terms of reliability.

Personally, I am still planning on rigging up my electric car to be able to act as a rather large UPS.

Plug my car in to the house to charge. When there's a blackout, plug my house into the car to run the fridge and things!
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Old 02-10-2009, 08:15 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I like the idea of the large UPS!! When you're not home, you can use a minimal battery pack as the house backup... when you are home, both the minimal battery pack plus the electric car can be a combined backup...

Very cool idea....
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Old 02-10-2009, 09:45 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Frank -

Quote:
Suddenly, the nation's automobiles are no longer just a transportation option, but a network of mini-storage devices for electricity.
This sounds a lot like one of the Amory Lovins proposals to transition to a (hydrogen) fuel cell economy. The concept was to deal with the lack of hydrogen fuel infrastructure by locating the hydrogen supply at your work destination. During the day, since your fuel cell engine doesn't have anything else to do, it could be generating electricity and feeding it back to the grid (using the hydrogen fuel where you work).

On the assumption that the battery tech is efficient, this sounds like a similar thing. It also sounds similar to the Th!nk car proposal in Norway that I read last year (can't find the @#$&^@#$ article!!!!).

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Old 02-10-2009, 10:54 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Now that I think about it, this could work great with Time-of-day metering.

If you had one of those setups where you pay double for electricity during the day and half as much at night, you could exploit the heck out of it.

Charge your batteries at night (cheap) and if you need to run something during the day, run it from the batteries!
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Old 02-11-2009, 09:09 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I don't think this is really a great idea. First of all your going to loose more than 1/3 the energy you pulled off the grid in the first place. Secondly a large number of inverters feeding energy back into the grid that don't have a sinusoidal output could cause major havoc and even damage to the grid.

Any one thinking they can make money by storing and feeding power back to the utility can pretty much forget it. To feed power back onto the grid you must have a dual rate meter with a shut off control in case the power goes out so you don't fry the line man repairing the problem. In most states utilities are not required to buy back power at the same price they sell it and if they are there is a clause that usually says you must produce the same amount of power you use or more.
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Old 02-12-2009, 11:51 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Novel concept, but i think it is a bad idea.

Sure, battery storage to stabelize is fine, but why would i want to lug those heavy batteries around in my car for the utility company, and what if i want to drive a long distance starting when they just drained my batteries? And am I responsible for replacing the batteries that they have over-used?

Put the batteries at the power generation station. Make them huge, expensive and highly efficient. Making people drive around with little bits of utility power lugging them down is just silly.
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Old 02-12-2009, 03:30 PM   #8 (permalink)
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On top of all the technical problem, my issue comes with peoples hearts. I simply dont see a lot of people going "Yeah, let me power my neighborhood so I'll have a car that can't leave."

I'm not sure I know anyone around me that would trade a full tank for electricity.
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Old 02-12-2009, 03:40 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I don't think anyone looking at this is expecting altruism to drive acceptance.

The few pieces I've read about V2G talked about:
  • paying the vehicle owner for any power used
  • providing an option to say "no", or
  • set limits at which the vehicle is no longer available to the grid (so they can't empty your battery and you can't get to work tomorrow morning)
The article Frank posted mentions this:

Quote:
Better still, the car owners could be paid for the electricity they return, perhaps enough to earn back the cost of the car in a few years.
I don't know how realistic the second part is. But that's what they all talk about.
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Old 02-12-2009, 04:33 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bennelson View Post
V2G (Vehicle to Grid) is a great idea - in concept.

The trouble is that it's pretty tough to get anybody to do anything unless you give them a very good reason to (government money for example)
Peak electricity costs are something like 25c/kWh and up. Off-peak electricity costs are something like 5c/kWh, and storage costs about 10c/kWh. Pay the driver 20c/kWh and they make money off the situation, and the utility gets power for 5c/kWh (and up) less. This is the same reason why states (and governments) subsidize solar power. It makes the most power around peak demand and a 15c/kWh subsidy is a lot cheaper than a 25c/kWh and up natural gas peaker plant.

In terms of pay off, I can see making enough to buy a new battery pack, but not a new car. At 50c/kWh, assuming the utility and auto owner split the difference, and the owner has 5kWh of spare capacity that's used, they'll make about a buck per day. Over a decade that's ~$3,500, enough to buy a new 10kWh pack at $350/kWh.


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