More Grid-Friendly Vehicles
How about a vehicle that not only draws energy from an electric grid but also gives it back when there is surplus or unused energy in the vehicle? This is exactly the kind of car being developed by Willett Kempton, a renewable-energy professor at the University of Delaware.
Now, you may wonder what sort of energy a vehicle can provide to an electric grid. Not much as a single vehicle, but think about thousands of vehicles pumping energy into the grid along a busy highway. With a few million such vehicles on the roads, the nation’s automobiles, as Kempton and a few others believe, are no longer just a transportation option, but a network of mini-storage devices for electricity. A single vehicle can provide electricity to a few nearby homes.
This is a great concept, especially when 95% of the time the vehicles are just standing and their batteries remain unused. While it’s not being driven, an electric-drive motor vehicle can be plugged into a nearby grid and that grid can receive energy from the vehicle. When the battery needs to be charged it can be quickly done by drawing energy from the grid. According to some claims this can provide a utility value of $4000 per year to a vehicle owner.
Edward Kjaer, director of electric transportation for the Southern California Edison utility, said in a recent speech at the Valley Forge, Pa., offices of PJM Interconnection, the region’s grid operator, “Energy storage is not only a nexus between these two titans – the energy and auto industries – it’s a game-changer.”
As an aside, a Palo-Alto start-up called “Better Place” has got a go-ahead to build a network of 250,000 charging ports, 200 battery-exchange stations and a control center dedicated to keep things running smoothly, in San Francisco. They plan to get the entire thing up and running by 2012. Very soon our vehicles will not only be consuming energy, but also producing it.