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Electric Cars to Help Utilities Load Balance Grid

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the little-bit-here-little-bit-there dept.

Transportation 247

Reservoir Hill writes "A team at the University of Delaware has created a system that enables vehicles to not only run on electricity alone, but also to generate revenue by storing and providing electricity for utilities. The technology, known as V2G, for vehicle-to-grid, lets electricity flow from the car's battery to power lines and back. When the car is in the V2G setting, the battery's charge goes up or down depending on the needs of the grid operator, which sometimes must store surplus power and other times requires extra power to respond to surges in usage. The ability of the V2G car's battery to act like a sponge provides a solution for utilities, which pay millions to generating stations that help balance the grid."

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will never work (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638277)

The critical flaw in this, is that if you get to even 50% of the car out there having this it's a piss weak load balancer.

Re:will never work (2, Interesting)

Swordopolis (1159065) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638411)

If you're thinking about a single car, then yes; it is "piss weak". But you're losing sight of the big picture here. According to 2004 estimates by the US Bureau of Transit, there are almost 250 million motor vehicles in the US, over 200 million of which are cars, pickup trucks, and SUV's (passenger vehicles). Imagine the possibilities if even the merest fraction of that was tapped into.

Re:will never work (3, Insightful)

myrdos2 (989497) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638467)

To my mind, the serious flaw here is that the highest cost of running an electric car is having to periodically replace the batteries. If you talk to the owners of lead-acid battery cars, they'll tell you they replace them an average of once per year. These things are only good for a few hundred deep-discharge/recharge cycles.

Of course, the electric company might not deep-discharge your batteries, but they're still wearing them out. The battery is the weakest part of an electric car. Expensive and barely adequate to move you around. I'd prefer to wait until my battery's capacity had dropped below the point of being usable, and then let them store power in it while I buy myself a new one.

Re:will never work (4, Insightful)

fractalVisionz (989785) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638971)

It will never work not because of the fact that the energy conversion isn't this or that, it will never work because nobody would ever want their car half full, or less, right as they are about to head out on a long trip. Long trip by todays electric standards is about 150-200 miles also.

Re:will never work (3, Insightful)

evilviper (135110) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639439)

it will never work because nobody would ever want their car half full, or less, right as they are about to head out on a long trip.

When you're planning on a car trip, you SHUT OFF this V2G mode, and put it on the normal charging cycle.

The other 99% of the time, when you need less than half the range to get you through the day, you leave it to charge in V2G mode, and potentially make some money while it's sitting there. It's not an issue.

The only issue is the lifetime of the batteries and converters, and the amount of money the power companies are going to pay participants for providing the service.

Though, peak metering would serve the same purpose better, and once there are a significant number of electric vehicles, the off-peak loads will be high enough to make it economical to just build more power plants, and run them at max capacity 24 hours a day.

Re:will never work (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639053)


I have a summer house on the slope above a balancing hydroelectric. The thing is huge. A cascade of 5 dams along a mountain valley. The main "tank" on top is nearly 10 miles long and 3 miles wide. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Belmeken_004.jpg [wikipedia.org] . The actual generators and temporary storage dams down in the valley are several miles in length as well. And all this just barely manages something like 30-40MW of balancing capacity.

Frankly using hybrid cars for this is a total joke. If you want to "help" the grid (and get payed for that) put some solars or a wind turbine on your house.

Re:will never work (5, Informative)

Calinous (985536) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639279)

This isn't about generating electricity at YOUR desire (or sun's desire or wind desire). What you propose is the PROBLEM for which the electric car's battery balancing is the SOLUTION.
      The battery in the car will give energy back into the system WHEN THE ELECTRICITY IS NEEDED, not when you have some available.

      In the electric grid there is a minimal, constant power needed - this is the baseline. Above this, the request fluctuates - with some slow gradients and some fast gradients.
        Slow gradients are things like the move from evening to night (people go to sleep, lights go off, TVs go off). As people go to sleep from - let's say 9 PM to 12PM, there is a slow change in electricity need. "Baseload" power plants usually can change their output to account for this.
      And there are fast gradients. Some of them are small, like an entire office building starting or shutting down their lights. Some, however, are not so small - like - let's say - an entire neighboorhood starting their electric boilers at the same time). When this happens, a brownout ensures - the electric plant is overwhelmed, and its output voltage drops. Having a lower voltage, the electric boilers will consume less power than at full voltage (Power is voltage squared demultiplied by resistance/impedance). However, some consumers (switching power supplies) will just take a higher amperage, and the voltage goes even lower.
      For this kind of fast gradients, the gas turbines are used as "fast switching" sources. A gas turbine is able to ramp from - let's say 10% to 90% rated power - in the space of a couple of seconds (for comparation, a hydroelectric big plant will ramp the same in a couple of minutes or more). Ramping back might be even slower on baseload power plants (unless they choose to vent already heated steam). Yet, electricity generated from natural gas is expensive (much more so compared to coal or hydro). Also, the nuclear plants (while they might be able to ramp quickly on and off) are NOT designed to do so, and are not tested to do so. They are just slow-ramping, base line power plants.

      As such, the electricity company hopes to supplement some of this "fast switching", expensive electricity with your car's battery.

First Post ? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21638289)

First Post ?

Make money from your car? (2, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638291)

Next up, plug your hydrogen car [nytimes.com] into the grid as a generator. Don't bother pointing out that all this conversion will lose some efficiency; of course it will. But think about the brownouts California was suffering a few summers ago. People will pay good money to escape no air conditioning, and some transmission loss doesn't change that.

Re:Make money from your car? (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638321)

But which is greater: The cost of the hydrogen, or the amount of money that can be redeemed selling the electricity produced with that hydrogen back to the grid?

Re:Make money from your car? (1, Informative)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638499)

The brownouts we're mainly hot air. First off, very few actually happened. Secondly, they were artificial- caused by manipulations of the power grid by energy providers for profit. There was no energy shortage.

Re:Make money from your car? (4, Informative)

Technician (215283) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639003)

The brownouts we're mainly hot air. First off, very few actually happened. Secondly, they were artificial- caused by manipulations of the power grid by energy providers for profit. There was no energy shortage.

Bzzzt... Wrong.

The energy shortage was real and localized. In the Enron days, California capped electricity rates as a consumer protection move. As a result, Enron in a move to cut losses from expensive generation and as a leverage tool to negotiate new rates, took the oppertunity when fuel prices spiked to shut down a lot of ineffecient generation plants for maitenance. This was followed by a heat wave which put a spike in demand for AC. A line tripped offline. It was either blackout time as systems cascaded carrying the overload or simply drop part of the load and leave the rest of the sytem up.

http://tdworld.com/mag/power_world_technology_update_2/ [tdworld.com]
"California Energy Crisis Reaches Stage Three Electrical Emergency Already under a Stage Three Electrical Emergency due to scant resources, the California Independent System Operator (California ISO) encountered a significant and sudden loss of transmission capacity Jan. 21, 2001, that forced municipal utilities in Northern California, U.S. to endure a brief 20-min transmission-related outage."

"The California ISO issued the controlled outage to keep the ac lines from overloading at Path 15, a group of high-voltage lines in central California already at their limit because of low resources in the northern part of the state."

There was a blackout because there was not enough in area generation online. The capacity of the system was stressed. A line failed. The already loaded lines couldn't take on the replacement load. Part of the area was shut off to preserve the remaining area. It was small blackout time of watch the entire area go dark as the system collapsed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_electricity_crisis [wikipedia.org]
"Due to price controls, utility companies were paying more for electricity than they were allowed to charge customers forcing the bankruptcy of Pacific Gas and Electric and the public bail out of Southern California Edison. This led to a shortage in energy and therefore, blackouts. Rolling blackouts began in June 2000 and recurred several times in the following 12 months."

"Energy price regulation forced suppliers to ration their electricity supply rather than expand production. This scarcity created opportunities for market manipulation by energy speculators."

If you need any more proof that price controls cause shortages, just re-read the above. You can mandate $1/gallon for gasoline, but don't expect to find it for sale anywhere.

Read between the lines.. they didn't pay high prices for fuel for ineffecient plants.

"Despite the action, PG&E said it still is having trouble getting gas suppliers to comply with the emergency order originally issued January 19. PG&E has said it has enough gas in storage to make up for the lost supply under such a scenario until the first week in February. According to a company spokesperson, PG&E's storage currently is well below 50% full, or less than 16 Bcf and depleting rapidly by about 500 MMcf/d to 1 Bcf/d."

They used their reserve fuel, but could only buy fuel at a loss due to price caps and high fuel cost. Gas suppliers were not selling below market. They sold at market rates, a price the utilites could not afford.

Expensive to run generation plants were shut down for upgrades and maitenance while they waited out the high fuel prices. The spike in demand caused the inevetible. The lines into the area could provide only part of the cheaper power from elsewhere.

http://www.usbr.gov/dataweb/html/pninter.html [usbr.gov] This is the list of the lines from Oregon into California and their capacities.

The lines into the area have a limited capacity. The demand exceeded the delivery. Voltage sags, (brownout) and load shedding to prevent catastrophic failures of transformers and transmission lines then was implimented (Rolling Blackouts) to prevent a cascading failure of the area grid.

http://www.truthout.org/cgi-bin/artman/exec/view.cgi/37/8796 [truthout.org]

To make matters worse, the hot weather did cause a shortage of water behind the Pacific NW hydro dams in 2001. The spring runoff simply wasn't there in full capacity.

http://www.heatisonline.org/contentserver/objecthandlers/index.cfm?id=3689&method=full [heatisonline.org]
http://www.answers.com/topic/bonneville-power-administration?cat=biz-fin [answers.com]

Re:Make money from your car? (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639571)

Next up, plug your hydrogen car into the grid as a generator. Don't bother pointing out that all this conversion will lose some efficiency; of course it will. But think about the brownouts California was suffering a few summers ago. People will pay good money to escape no air conditioning, and some transmission loss doesn't change that.

But why would you provide energy for the grid ? Disconnect the house and use the electricity yourself. The power company can't sell electricity for more than it costs to produce it yourself that way, because then no one would buy it, and they can't pay you as much or more than they get when selling it, because then they'll go banckrupt. Consequently, your best bet is to disconnect from the grid in the case of brownout, and simply power your own house with your car.

Oops (4, Interesting)

Power_Pentode (1123285) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638323)

Wait until everyone leaves on holiday some unusually hot 4th of July morning. The earlybirds are fine, but those leaving later have empty "tanks" because ConEd sucked out all their battery power to run all of the air conditioners.

Re:Oops (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638343)

Simply make it so that users can determine haw much power they are willing to give back. If 50% of the battery is used as a capacitor, one gets more money back. If 10% is used as a capacitor, one is has a longer guaranteed travel range.

Re:Oops (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21638915)

Then why not buy a car with a smaller battery (travel lighter)? And if you really want to help the utilities, you can buy a separate battery and leave it plugged at home 24/7.

Because (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639541)

Possibly your regular commute is less than irregular trips you take at weekends, holidays, etc. You need to be able to have a 400 mile range, but 60 miles will do you on a regular day.

Re:Oops (1)

TheMiddleRoad (1153113) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639237)

1. Batteries will have a minimum they'd deplete themselves to. 2. Hybrid cars will be able to run and produce energy, adding to the grid and recharging their batteries if needed. Future hybrids will use gasoline or diesel solely for electricity generation to run drive motors and, eventually, grid power. 3. Your post should be labeled "Slippery Slope" as that is exactly the kind of argument it is. "If we let them take a little power, they'll take it all!"

AC Propulsion (4, Informative)

TheMiddleRoad (1153113) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638327)

AC Propulsion, who built the car, has been working on this technology for quite a long time. Their press release is at http://www.acpropulsion.com/releases/10-24-2007.htm [acpropulsion.com] . They also have a solar powered, unmanned aircraft, an electric sports car that long precedes the T-Zero, and good taste in car bodies since they've used the Sportech and xB for their major projects.

Alec Brooks (1)

IvyKing (732111) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638981)

The author of some of the literature was Alexander Brooks, someone I knew from high school and UC Bezerkeley. Alec's degrees were in Civil engineering, not electrical engineering, and I found quite a few points where he would have done well to consult more with the power systems crowd - and a specific recommendation would have been to consult with Prof O.J.M. Smith of UCB.

A real simple control method is to pay attention to frequency - go from charging to feeding back when the fequency drops below nominal and increase charging when the frequency goes above nominal. If the response is fast enough, this alone would do wonders to increase damping of power system disturbances.

Battery Life? (4, Insightful)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638349)

Most batteries have a nominal number of charge/discharge cycles that they can go through before they can't hold any capacity any more.
Why would you wear out an expensive, hard to dispose of part of a car like that?

(Unless the cars use Supercapacitors [wikipedia.org] or a high-speed flywheel [wikipedia.org] , in which case the only issue is transformer/inverter losses, which might be balanced by transmission losses if the usage is near to the car, in which case this could be a good idea)

Re:Battery Life? (2, Insightful)

Leuf (918654) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638517)

If it were actually economical to do this, then why wouldn't the utilities just buy the batteries themselves rather than pay you to use yours?

Re:Battery Life? (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638549)

Yeah, what is the different between these cars and a UPS-like device in every garage? If this was really good for the power company then they would give people a discount for putting a battery-inverter thing in their house, properly connected...

Re:Battery Life? (1)

Duhavid (677874) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638931)

Maybe because this way the power company doesnt have to give any discount?
Heck, they will probably charge the recipient of the power and the
car owner for this "service".

Re:Battery Life? (2, Informative)

seb42 (920797) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638781)

Good question, Vanadium redox battery is used in wind power stations to store energy. It can handle many thousands charge-discharge cycles and then only replacement of the membrane is required to extend the life. Can also be recharge by replacing the electrolyte. - It is more complex and has relatively poor energy-to-volume ratio. So may be it would be better for buses than cars. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanadium_redox_battery [wikipedia.org]

Re:Battery Life? (2, Insightful)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638799)

Well, if it's not economical to buy the battery for the purpose, but you're going to buy the battery anyway to use it in the car... A lot of batteries (especially LiIon) have a significant component of their lifetime measured in years of service, not charge cycles. So if it's not costing you anything to use the battery like this, and you already own it...

Re:Battery Life? (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638557)

I always get a chuckle when I hear about these flywheels. Sure, all modern engines have one, but the kind needed to store that much potential energy is a disaster waiting to happen.

1. Taking a highway ramp to another perpendicular highway at 50Mph is stressful enough. Imagine how changing direction with a fucking GYRO will do. You'll end up in the wall eventually.

2. Imagine getting into a car wreck with that thing fully spooled up. There had better be some form of safety device in place, because I'd hate for that flywheel to fragment like a hand grenade!

In short, these might be great for a bus or 18 wheeler assuming the engineering problems are worked out. But no way in hell would I want one in a 4 door sedan or smaller.

Re:Battery Life? (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638609)

Problem 1: have 2 flywheels, going in opposite directions.

Problem 2: the flywheel has about the same amount of energy as gasoline a car normally carries, right? Just make the flywheel out of something that breaks in to a ton of little pieces that gets caught by the container (as suggested by the wiki article) Anything that is energy-dense is going to have this problems, like Sony Batteries, gasoline, etc.

Yeah, high-speed flywheels are a long way off from being usable to run a car, but one of the biggest hurdles for some people is charging it fast enough. The flywheel could be made to take it, but the electrical grid is a bit more tricky.

My personal favorite non-gasoline energy transport is high-pressure air, like in a compressed air car [wikipedia.org]

Re:Battery Life? (1)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639365)

Problem 1: have 2 flywheels, going in opposite directions.
This won't work, try holding 2 bicycle wheels rotating in opposite directions, you will still feel the resistance to movement, not very convenient for non-stationary setups.

Re:Battery Life? (1)

ydra2 (821713) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639497)

I've actually tried this experiment. If the flywheels, in my case bycycle tires filled with water, are held horizontal to the plane of the earths gravity there is no problem whatsoever. All you have to do is turn in one direction or the other and they spin a minute fraction of a percent faster or slower depending on the direction. If you want to suddenly veer upwards into space you have a slight problem, but thats what most land vehicle want to avoid most. Flywheels really do wonders for stabilizing a vehicle without affecting turning right or left at all. They only affect turning to another plane, which we normally don't want to do. But even if we have to, such as when going up a hill, the worst they do is hold you flat to it on the upside and gently lower you down on the down side.

Re:Battery Life? (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639141)

For Lithium Ion batteries, most of the lifetime of the battery is determined by time since manufacture (with modifiers for how charged it is -- 40% or so is best, iirc -- and temperature and such), with charge cycles being a second-order effect. Of course, that assumes you take good care of it, but the charge controller in the car should be able to handle that anyway.

Of course, as you say, supercapacitors are the interesting technology. AIUI, all the pieces exist in the lab to make supercaps that beat LiIon for storage density. Now it's just a small matter of engineering (tm) before we can use them in cars. They're getting better quickly, in terms of what you can actually buy.

Re:Battery Life? (0)

dargaud (518470) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639777)

I will not want a flywheel in my car EVER. If you think a wheel coming off was dangerous, think again when something heavier and rotating at _much_ higher speed just goes free or explodes into shard in every direction. It's really the stupidest idea ever. And yes, I've been in a car that was crushed to 1/3 its former size by a high-speed idiot.

So then... (3, Funny)

LOTHAR, of the Hill (14645) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638353)

It's like a giant Carpacitor!!!

It's only really useful if it can store 8.6 jigawatts!

Re:So then... (3, Funny)

chuckymonkey (1059244) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638551)

1.21 Jigawatts. Your nerd card has been revoked. Please leave it at the door on the way out along with your glasses tape, pocket protector, and UID.

Better ways to balance load (3, Interesting)

Jeff1946 (944062) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638383)

Probably lose 10% of power charging and 10% discharging if you are lucky. You want your car in the daytime when loads are heaviest. Must not put power on lines when linemen are working on them. Pumped hydroelectric is much better and currently used to store power. Always thought wind powered generators near a pumped hydroelectric would be a good thing. Also large windfarms in places like west Texas generating hydrogen would also be a reasonable thing to do. When we run out of natural gas, the existing gas distribution system could be used to pump the hydrogen all over the country much as we do with natural gas today.

Re:Better ways to balance load (1)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638443)

Pumped hydroelectric is great where it's available, sure, but what would, say, New York City do? Pump out New Your Harbor?

Re:Better ways to balance load (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21638895)

Pumped hydroelectric is great where it's available, sure, but what would, say, New York City do? Pump out New Your Harbor?

So, where does New York City's power currently come from? SOMEWHERE ELSE!

How about upstate New York? (where there are hydroelectric dams)

Re:Better ways to balance load (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638921)

Put it in the skyscrapers? :)

Big tank in the roof, big tank in the basement.
That would be kinda cool actually.....

Re:Better ways to balance load (3, Insightful)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638539)

Natural gas lines are't suitable for hydrogen. It's the smallest atom so it tends to leak from most any seal. Part of the problem with hydrogen is storage and distribution because of leakage. If you leavea full tank of gasoline for a year it's still full. Even the best hydrogen car storage system would be empty long before the year is out. If you are driving constantly the loss would be manageable but even leaving it overnight would result in some loss and a weekend might see a noticeable drop in tank pressure. I love hydrogen but it seems best suited for short term storage and it's strictly a storage medium and not a true power source. I think it's better suited to home storage system of power for solar and wind and recharging electric cars. Even the hydrogen cars that are being proposed are in truth electric cars they just use hydrogen instead of batteries. I've never heard of a hydrogen car getting 200+ miles on a tank like some of the latest electric cars using batteries. Recharge times are the biggest problem but that's strictly for long range travel since most people see home recharging as a plus with electrics. Capacitors may eventually solve this problem. Either way electrics if the cost of batteries came down would still work for 90% of the driving and even at current prices they are radically cheaper than hydrogen fuel cells. Platnium is going to keep the costs high. Electric is practical today and works with or current infrastructure. People complain about costs and range on electric cars I can't see them accepting hydrogen cars that cost many times as much and have a range of a 100 miles. Nano processes may drop the amount of platium needed but it will still be expensive and the storage problems still exist. You still need an energy source to produce hydrogen so there is no real difference between it and electric cars.

Re:Better ways to balance load (4, Informative)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638973)

Natural gas lines are't suitable for hydrogen. It's the smallest atom so it tends to leak from most any seal.

Hydrogen is small, but hydrogen always comes as an H2 molecule, and that is not quite the smallest gas particle. Helium is the smallest gas particle: the smallest of the noble gases, and it comes as single atoms. Leak tests are always done with He. If He doesn't leak, then nothing will. A nice extra is that He is virtually absent from our atmosphere, so any trace amount He found indicates a leak.

That said, it is certainly true that sometimes methane does not leak where H2 does. However this can never be in large quantities, as otherwise the methane would also be leaking already. I don't know whether this is a really significant problem with the existing gas network.

Much more likely an issue I think is hydrogen fatigue: many metals become brittle when exposed to H2 gas over a long period of time, and break. This is a serious issue in the design of chemical reactors, surfaces that are exposed to H2 can not carry any pressure load (so they build a second vessel around it, that carries the pressure, the gap filled with another gas such as nitrogen).

Re:Better ways to balance load (2, Insightful)

Nqdiddles (805995) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639323)

Well, I don't actually need my car ALL day. I've seen scenarios described where the vehicles could be plugged in at home, then again at work (while you're in the office and not using it).
Planning the controls on the system would require a fair bit of effort/balancing, but it could be worth a look.
If perhaps the manufacturer (or power company, or someone else)"leased" the batteries to you, or otherwise minimised the effect of the increased use on your hip pocket, and allowed for user customisable minimum charge limits for letting it flow back onto the grid... I'm sure I can think of situations where I would be willing to try it.
I use my car for 30 minutes in the morning, and 30 minutes at night, during the week. Give me an incentive, financial or otherwise, without noticeable drawbacks, and I'd probably be happy to let them make use of my battery.
Getting this sort of system to the point where it actually made a difference (ie. enough of these cars in use) would be quite a challenge though.

Re:Better ways to balance load (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639561)

You want your car in the daytime when loads are heaviest. Must not put power on lines when linemen are working on them.

True, but it could be a lot more efficient if your work's parking lot allowed you to plug in. Some companies could even use the power directly to reduce their peak workday load (for example where I work most people turn their computers on after arriving and turn them off before leaving). This would also have the advantage that they would only need to leave enough power for half your commute.

Down-sides (5, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638437)

Computer voice: "Sorry, you cannot go to Vegas this weekend, we need your batttery."

Re:Down-sides (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21638671)

Good News, Gambling Addicts!

Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21638451)

I don't understand. What incentive would we have to give the power back to the grid? Are the electric company really going to pay us more than the money we need to charge the car and the lost due to inefficiency?
If that's the case, someone would probably start a business just to store electricity.

Trust your utility company? (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638459)

I'm sorry but you can't use your car to go out this weekend. We need power to go to the grid. Try again next weekend, or apply for our weekend special at www.yourcarhahaha.com. Have a nice day.

Summary (1)

PhotoGuy (189467) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638525)

Okay, this didn't make a lot of sense to me at first, thinking that electric cars are the last things in the world to be providing excess power to the grid... But in fact, it is a neat idea.

Basically, all of the batteries of these cars, connected to the grid, act as a bit of a buffer/reservoir of power for the grid. Think water tower, where water is stored there temporarily, to be pulled out during times of peak demand. Similarly, the batteries of these cars (presumably only a portion of them) provide some power to the grid during times of peak demand, and charge back up otherwise.

The one downside is that your battery would not be at 100%, if you had been providing some reservoir capacity to the system. Hopefully this would be offset by savings or other incentives. (From my experience, with any battery powered device, I'm not willing to spare any capacity; there never seem to be enough. I've never had an electric car, however).

photovoltaics (2, Interesting)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638527)

If the utilities really want help balancing the grid here in California, they should change how they handle photovoltaics. I have photovoltaics, and there's a strong disincentive to buy more than enough capacity to handle 80% or so of your annual use. If you overproduce over the course of a 12-month billing period, they just take your extra electricity for free, and say thank you very much. If they would pay for excess production, I'd have a strong incentive to add more panels on my roof, and those panels would produce a lot of electricity on those hot Southern California days when everybody's using their AC.

Re:photovoltaics (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638573)

Technically, I think they give you credit. So you won't have to pay anything for a while if you ever stop using solar (the only reason I can think of for this is for if you move and can't get new panels installed).

Re:photovoltaics (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638777)

It really depends region to region. In northern Illinois, with ComEd, we have net metering. When we use power, the meter spins forward. When we dump unused generation capacity into the grid, our meter spins backwards. Typically, most people have a small electric bill if they have a wind turbine or solar panels. Those with much larger systems may have credits for most of the year with the utility.

Re:photovoltaics (1)

Mr_Reaper (231387) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638989)

your power meter will roll backwards if you start producing more energy than you consume and the utility has to pay you the going rate for the energy. problem is unless you have a couple of acres of panels dont expect to see alot of $$$

Re:photovoltaics (1)

ddoctor (977173) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639719)

In Australia, if you overproduce solar, you can sell it back to the grid. Some of our big power companies sell solar panels, and use this as a selling point.

They'd be stupid not to, given the strain on energy supply. Plus, they can tally up your excess as "green energy" and sell it at a premuim.

Back To The Future (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21638601)

1. Take a DeLorean
2. Charge it up
3. Go back in time one day
4. Sell back to grid
5. ???

Re:Back To The Future (1)

belg4mit (152620) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638815)

That better be a damn big battery and profit to offset the 1.21 gigawatts;
unless you live in an area plagued by predictable thunderstorms.

Offloading costs more like it. (5, Insightful)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638613)

The ability of the V2G car's battery to act like a sponge provides a solution for utilities, which pay millions to generating stations that help balance the grid.

So since I'm now taking over that job, how much will my cut be?

I thought so.

And this wont have any impact on the life span of my car's expensive battery will it?

Oh, it will.

Well since they're now saving so much money, they'll be able to lower utility ra---
What's so funny?

Re:Offloading costs more like it. (4, Informative)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638767)

You do realize that this already happens, and the electric companies do pay you for it? Industrially, power compaines give large consumers a break on rates if they get a say in when the power gets used, for exactly this reason. Some consumers need fairly large amounts of power, but don't care when they use it. Think refrigerated warehouses -- you can turn off the refrigeration for hours to reduce load without trouble, but then they have to use more later. In exchange for doing this, they get reduced rates. In some areas, you can also buy time of day metering -- handy if you have grid-tie solar panels, as you get to run the meter backward at day rates, then come home and use power at night rates.

I imagine they would be happy to extend the same basic deals to your car. And as you point out, you're not required to do so, so if they want you too, they'll have to offer such things.

Re:Offloading costs more like it. (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639829)

Some countries provide this benefit to consumers as well, making electricity cheaper during a specific period (usually late at night)... People set power hungry appliances like water heaters, dishwashers, washing machines etc to come on at these times.

Re:Offloading costs more like it. (1)

Myfyr (986912) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638919)

From the press release [acpropulsion.com] mentioned by an earlier poster:

"The benefits of V2G for the grid are compelling, but drivers get something too. PJM pays millions of dollars to generating stations for their help in balancing the grid. Once vehicles assume that role on a significant scale, their drivers will get paid too. That is why FERC Commissioner Jon Wellinghoff likes to call the cars CashBack Vehicles - plug them in and get cash back."

This isn't new... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21638643)

I worked (as an electronics technician) for a company called Wavedriver in the UK doing this just over 10 years ago. They used a 3 phase power converter to convert from DC from the storage battery to three phase AC to drive a motor for electric cars. You could use three phase from the grid to charge the battery but you could also put it back into the grid when needed. Bacisally to do just what TFA talks about. The other cool thing (than I never understood how it worked) was that you could use the system to correct power factor back to unity. I think the idea was a large building could use one of these systems along with a large battery. The system would event out the power somehow by changing the power factor.

I believe the company was bought by Powergen in the UK then I don't know what happened to them. I remember once we put one of the systems in what was then a Norwegian PIVCO car. Later that crowd were bought by Ford and the PIVCO became the 'Think'. I think Ford then killed it?

Charge / Discharge Cycles? (1)

Phleg (523632) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638647)

Won't a technology like this put the battery through excessive charge / discharge cycles, killing battery life?

Re:Charge / Discharge Cycles? (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639029)

Depends on the charge/discharge amount. Most hybrid batteries are never charged past 70% of full capacity, and never discharged past 40% of full capacity. This greatly extends their life (although, that's specific to the hybrid synergy drive in Toyota and Lexus hybrids using NiMh batteries. Lithium Ion batteries are much more friendly to full discharge, but need a more complicated battery management system)

Re:Charge / Discharge Cycles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21639103)

Lithium-ion battery life is generally measured in flat time from manufacture, not cycles. It's very hard to kill them with excessive use.

Yeah. Right. Sure. (1, Insightful)

mbstone (457308) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638673)

So the electric co. will buy the electricity in your car battery (at wholesale prices). Then when it doesn't need the power anyore, it recharges your battery (for which you are billed retail). Do this several dozen times a day and watch your bill skyrocket.

Re:Yeah. Right. Sure. (4, Informative)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638741)

Umm... no? Right now, you can already do time of day metering, where you get charged different rates at different times. People with solar installations like this, because their solar panel returns power to the grid at daytime rates, and then they come home at night and use power at evening rates. You could do that with a battery too, except that batteries are expensive so no one does. Unless you already happen to have the battery...

Re:Yeah. Right. Sure. (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639011)

So the electric co. will buy the electricity in your car battery (at wholesale prices). Then when it doesn't need the power anyore, it recharges your battery (for which you are billed retail). Do this several dozen times a day and watch your bill skyrocket.

My parents have a solar cell installed on their roof, subsidised by the government (they live in The Netherlands). On a good day, if they do not use any electricity, they should be able to see the electricity meter run backwards. I can imagine that is the same in this case: if electricity is withdrawn, the meter runs backwards. So no billing would be done at all for that stored electricity, and it doesn't cost the user anything.

how to solve the energy crisis (1, Interesting)

rice_burners_suck (243660) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638745)

I have a much better solution to the problem of energy. There are thousands upon thousands of people behind bars. All they have to do is hook up rows and rows of stationary bicycles, where the flywheels of all the bicycles on each row are connected by an axle, at the end of which is a coil that serves as a generator. Put the inmates on these damn things for 18 hours a day, with groups of inmates starting and stopping at two hour offsets to make sure that there will be electricity generated 24 hours per day, and make them pedal hard to generate that electricity. Each bike would be fitted with a device that senses if the inmate on that bike isn't pedaling hard enough, and if so, the taskmasters assigned to that group of bicycles would use a whip to provide incentive to pedal harder. The prison walls could be built out of lead-acid batteries arranged like bricks to house excess energy.

I have the best solution. (0, Troll)

Calledor (859972) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638825)

Take everyone who is playing WoW and hook them up matrix style to their PC. Simply feed them with IVs and suck their nerd warmth to provide for people who do something more than waste power on extra FPS in a damn mmorpg.

Re:how to solve the energy crisis (1)

thaig (415462) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639317)

I have never understood why gyms don't do this? I mean why do all those people using excercise bicycles and lifting weights etc not get paid to *go* to the gym rather than the other way round? They could be generating electricity and getting a free workout at the same time.

Re:how to solve the energy crisis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21639399)

It takes about 2000 kilocalories to feed one person for one day. Assuming you could convert all that energy to electricity, you'd get about 2.34 kilowatt-hours.

The market value of 2.34 kilowatt hours is about 35 cents.

How much do you pay for a day's worth of food?

Re:how to solve the energy crisis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21639615)

i dunno, those niggas can run pretty fast already, do you really think it's a good idea to train them? you wont when they're running down the street with your PS3

The bill won't skyrocket (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21638835)

Peak usage is around noon each day.

The idea is that the electric car dumps power into the grid at peak usage times at premium rates and charges at night at discount rates. AC Propulsion and the companies that license their technology (Tesla Motors being the most noteworthy right now) all have this built into their vehicles. You can use this to actually reduce your total utility bill. The kicker is that your car has to be plugged in to the grid at the time of peak usage.

Alternatively, how cool would it be if there were enough cars plugged in to the grid to allow the utility to simply turn off an entire generating station at night.

As for the problem with the batteries... yes, battery lifetime will be an issue. Lithium cobalt oxide batteries like those used laptops, cell phones, and the Tesla Roadster have a fairly low cycle life and are thus probably best not used to replenish the grid. Future cars, like the Tesla "whitestar" and the Chevy Volt will very likely be based on lithium iron phosphate batteries (A123 and others) and will have much, much better cycle life at the expense of reduced capacity.

Finally, about the conversion efficiency: There are conversion losses. The power electronics should be able to do the conversion with efficiencies in the range of 90-94%, and the chemistry efficiency of the batteries is very high (though I don't know the number off the top of my head, for LiFePO4 it's extremely good). It's worth pointing out that simple transmission of power from generating station to the consumer also incurs losses. Odds are power put back on the grid in a residential area by a car will be consumed in the vicinity, thus cutting transmission losses.

So overall, this is a very good thing. It will, however, require careful management to ensure its equity and utility - but then again, what technology doesn't?

Why not stationary, cheaper batteries? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21638867)

If they are willing to pay for cycles through your fancy EV battery, why not just buy some cheaper, stationary batteries and put them in a warehouse next to the plant?

The only way this makes sense is to modulate the charge rate, NOT cycle the battery. The cost of cycling an EV battery is too high.

But... (1)

Vskye (9079) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638883)

I bet fireman hate this concept, since if you have a fire and kill the power, the car would still feedback juice into the house. Friend of mine had his house burn down a few years ago, and they specifically asked him about a UPS.. Just something else to think about.

Re:But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21638967)

The car would just need to sense power out on the grid and shut down. Most grid interactive inverters have this feature (indeed you can't install one legally without it where I live).

Re:But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21639051)

That's right, plus the firemen in question were probably more worried about a UPS battery exploding than getting an electric shock.

Re:But... (2, Informative)

lxw56 (827351) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639531)

That's right, plus the firemen in question were probably more worried about a UPS battery exploding than getting an electric shock.
IAAFF, and we are more concerned about electric shock. After a major fire, fire crews usually tear apart walls and ceilings to look for hidden fire. While doing so, they often end up pulling electrical wires out as well. On a major house fire, my department will shut off the gas and pull the electric meter.

Cost effective? (1)

WoTG (610710) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638911)

"The ability of the V2G car's battery to act like a sponge provides a solution for utilities, which pay millions to generating stations that help balance the grid."

Yeah, it costs millions with whatever system they currently use (I'm guessing shipping the power to neighbouring power grids). How much will configuring tens of thousands of (currently non-existent) electric cars to take and feed the grid cost? How much is fixing all the meters so that they read properly in "generator" mode? Who wants to validate all the electrical systems involved?

To me, this sounds like a solution in search of a problem. Ship the power next door, that system has worked for decades. Let the guys who have hydro dams handle the spikes and valleys.

This is actually an excellent idea (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 6 years ago | (#21638913)

Two key notes 1. Expensive, high energy storage devices will be developed for practical electric cars. The actual technology might be flywheels, ultra-capacitors, or some type of super battery. Point is, that's a huge investment in energy storage that shouldn't go to waste. 2. It's not as inefficient as you might think - the power released would not go far, probably just to help power the suburban house/apartment building that the car owner is plugged in to. 3. This technology would dovetail perfectly with mass adoption of solar. If Nano-Solar or another firm makes enough large scale cheap solar panels, it would become economically expedient for ALL new power generation to be solar panels. (since the cost/watt might be about half what burning coal costs) But, solar won't power the grid at night, and so storage would be much more valuable to utility companies in a few decades. (not at first, normally there is less load at night and conventional power plants work fine at night)

dumb way to do something smart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21639031)

theres much better tech comming out to just this... power load balancing.

beacon power company

basically they have large arrays of flywheels that will spin up to store electricity say at night when demand is lower. and spin down to give it back out during the day when the demand goes up.

they just got approval and all that for installing a large array somewhere in the US.

http://www.beaconpower.com/ [beaconpower.com]

And. it doesnt add a bunch of crap to our cars.

Re:dumb way to do something smart (1)

speculatrix (678524) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639785)

there have been schemes to use flywheels to provide short term energy storage for vehicles: google for it [google.co.uk] .

for slow urban vehicles like buses I can see this would be OK, but I would hate to hate a high speed turn in my flywheel-storage sports car and have it start to flip over!

Cars? (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639087)

Cars? You kids want to use cars to drag your stinking electricity all over the neighborhood? When I was your age, I'd carry two buckets of electricity, uphill in the snow both ways.

Now get off my lawn.

Peer to peer networks typically suck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21639097)

Just because something can be done doesn't mean it makes any sense to actually do it.

I want someone to explain to me how this is better than building large power storage units near existing substations or by constructing dedicated energy storage plants?

The reason peaker plants have not been replaced is very very simple. The technology currently does not exist to implement in a manner with even a resemblance of cost effectiveness.

Like it or not the real work on this planet gets done by large centralized systems and for good reason.

Stupid idea (1)

allanj (151784) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639115)

So, apparently we need a complicated system of grid feeding substations (electric cars, in this article) to help keep the grid working. Here's another idea - the utilities could do THEIR job a little better, and this vast infrastructure change will be irrelevant. How do they handle solar, wind and similar at the moment? Another issue is that overall power quality will degrade with too many cheap substations feeding energy with uncontrollable amounts of reactive power into the grid. Sure this can be handled, but only at considerable cost to the installation you need in your home. That is one the reasons utilities would rather keep your excess wind, solar, hydro or other such energy sources off their precious grid, and will settle for your consumption to be really low. Handling that situation would require substantial investments on the side of the utilities - not exactly what they are known to love.

Thought this may be a good idea (1)

shicaca (899698) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639229)

I was thinking to myself, "Maybe they're talking about solar cars!" (Charge your car completely and THEN put excess on the grid or something along those lines)


Why the heck would I want to plug my car in to provide the electric company a service that could potentially, worst case scenario, hose my battery/car by overloading it (not enough cars to handle the load plugged in at one particular time), or by even depleting perhaps enough of my battery to screw me royally when I get in a traffic jam that was unforeseeable in my future? No thanks. I'll keep my 100% charge thankyouverymuch. Until the power companies start paying me for MY services, they can go to ... well you know where.

Re:Thought this may be a good idea (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639413)

Until the power companies start paying me for MY services, they can go to

Uhhh... isn't that the point? You get paid for the electricity you feed back into the system.

Re:Thought this may be a good idea (1)

shicaca (899698) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639613)

From the article:

"Kempton estimates the value for utilities could be up to $4,000 a year for the service, part of which could be paid to drivers."

Could being the key word. I guess I should have said, "If and WHEN I get paid for it we'll talk, until then the power companies can ......."

It's just like when I was still in HS and solar energy cells for houses were first hitting the big market and everyone was talking it up like it was something great. "It makes your electricity meter go backwards in low-usage times!" (and) "You get paid for the excess if you make excess!" What they forget to mention is that nearly every single electric company since the introduction of this technology had first embraced, then completely denounced solar cell usage by not allowing these folks to receive stipends for energy THEY produced. There's, from what I'm hearing, only a select few that give you breaks on your bill per month for generating electricity FOR them.

I guess what I'm saying is "COULD" is definitely not "WILL" and I'm assuming it's going to be a mere pittance if anything at all since it's "up to $4,000 a year ... PART of which could be paid to drivers."

Re:Thought this may be a good idea (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639753)

What they forget to mention is that nearly every single electric company since the introduction of this technology had first embraced, then completely denounced solar cell usage by not allowing these folks to receive stipends for energy THEY produced.

In most civilized countries they have to pay you for that extra capacity by law. Anyway, how are they going to force you to hook your car up to the grid? The only way they are going to get you to do that is by paying you.

Of couse bill calculation will be done by utility (1)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639443)

You loose energy when storing/retrieving energy to batteries, so here is a possible use case:

1) You leave for a 1 year trip around the world, leaving your car hooked up to the grid.
2) When you get back a bill awaits you. Have you left your car unplugged, you would have saved that bill.

The bill would read :

Energy stored to your system: 10345 Kwh
Energy retrieved from your system: 8978 Kwh
Total to pay: 1367 Kwh
Thank you for letting us use your system and charge you for that!

It's like if you were running a bank with a safe that spills money into the sewer, not a very nice business model to be into ;-)

Re:Of couse bill calculation will be done by utili (1)

GuldKalle (1065310) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639805)

Except it would read:

Energy stored to your system: 10345 kWh * 0.19 $/kWh = 1965.60 $
Energy retrieved from your system: 8978 kWh *0.39 $/kWh = 3501.40 $
Total to pay: -1535.8 $

Because electricity is cheaper at when the demand is low.

Some (nearly) facts... (2, Interesting)

DamonHD (794830) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639619)

Well, there's been a lot of heat and little light so far...

I've actually been exchanging emails with the UK's National Grid on a very similar topic: if I add some extra batteries to a grid-tie/UPS solar PV system, are they interested in it for frequency/fast standby support? Nominally I could automatically switch it on in one cycle to pump back at maximum for 30 minutes or more, which meets several of their key requirements. (See towards bottom of this page: http://www.earth.org.uk/saving-electricity.html [earth.org.uk] under From Net-Zero Electricity to Negative-Carbon.)

So, I'd get paid for the electricity AND for providing a standby service to help grid stability.

1) Even if you don't cycle batteries they still have a finite life: use them or loose them.

2) You could easily set your system so that if the batteries are below 90% charge you won't support the grid: you'd hardly ever notice diminished capacity and you'd still be able to make a significant stability and peak-shaving contribution, and you'd also avoid deep-cycling for the grid which would wear them out faster.

3) You avoid frying linespeople in a power cut with a system approved to G83/1 or similar: this is old tech.



mobile UPS (1)

speculatrix (678524) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639709)

hey, great, my car is now a mobile uninterruptable power supply, so if there's a threat of a power outage taking out my home computers, I have to make sure I rush home and plug the car in!
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