3 Projects Explore V2G’s Real-World Potential

Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology provides power between the grid and electric vehicles. In doing so, it allows electric vehicles to charge their batteries when electricity is cheap and sell power to the grid when prices are high. It therefore acts as a true competitor for the utility grid.

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, sales of electric vehicles will hit 41 million by 2040, representing 35% of new light duty vehicle sales. Having more electric vehicles in the market implies that there will be an excellent source to deliver one of the most important parts of a V2G system—the energy storage. In the future, a fleet of V2G-equipped cars may collectively be able to feed power to the grid during periods of peak demand or even blackouts.

A V2G system requires the participation of various parties, including the vehicle battery supplier, vehicle supplier, vehicle owner, business or home, regulators, and electrical utility. Because V2G is still in its infancy, many are skeptical of the impact on the vehicle’s batteries. However, many projects around the world are paving the path for the future adoption of this technology. Let’s look at the potential impact of some of the pilot projects taking place at the moment:

The Parker Project. The goal of this project is to validate that a series-produced electric vehicle, functioning as part of an operational vehicle fleet, can support the power grid. To do so, it must become a vertically integrated resource. This project brings grid integration specialists like Enel, Nuvve, and Insero together with car manufacturers Nissan, Mitsubishi, and PSA Groupe to develop a universal definition for grid integration. As a result, electric vehicles worldwide will be able to support a future power system based on renewable energy (Fig. 1).

A universal definition will help define which technical capabilities must be supported by future electric vehicles. In the project, the partners also will explore the most viable commercial opportunities by systematically testing and demonstrating V2G services across car brands. Based on tests such as frequency regulations on several electric vehicles, Parker will ultimately be able to make a universal definition for grid integration so that electric vehicles from different carmakers can provide electricity to the power grid.

The Net-Form Project. This project is a common effort between Encraft, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, Costain PLC, Aston University, Western Power Distribution (WPD), and Cenex (Fig. 2). Their goal is to assess the feasibility of turning a parking lot into a megawatt scale battery, which can provide power on demand to the electricity grid. The project, which is being conducted in Solihull, U.K., involves developing a secure, dynamic data-management platform. That platform will collect, aggregate, and optimize energy collected by large populations of grid-connected electric vehicle batteries at a single location via a secure mobile application. Targeting consumer engagement is fundamental to understanding how to implement vehicle-to-grid operation while helping to understand how EV owners interact with V2G technology.

Electric school buses. Blue Bird Corp., a bus manufacturer located in Fort Valley, Ga., was awarded $4.4 million by the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a zero-emissions, 100% V2G electric school bus. One of the requirements of the award is that the bus must be an affordable, “low-cost” electric bus solution. The electric propulsion system to be installed into these buses will be based on TransPower’s “ElecTruck” battery-electric drive system. It will feature improvements in powertrain efficiency, battery management, and battery charging capability. In addition, new V2G capabilities will allow the buses to put electricity back into the grid, which Blue Bird believes may help bring much-needed funds to school districts.

Electric Vehicles and storage technologies are very young technologies. As these projects exemplify, however, they need to mature together so that they can benefit all of the members of the V2G ecosystem. The potential of this technology can be reached when scalable solutions are affordable and efficient. A single car will not impact the grid, but the combination of many or even all vehicles offers great benefits.

V2G technology is also a good opportunity for utility companies, which can rely on electric vehicles for backup power to the electric grid. These pilot projects demonstrate a number of challenges that must first be overcome, ranging from advances in technologies to the lack of V2G policies and infrastructure, and even changing driver behaviors. With a strong business case inspiring them, however, the transportation and energy industries are already working to find the best way to successfully implement V2G.

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