Los vehículos eléctricos pueden colapsar la red o ayudar a gestionarla

Pero convertir los vehículos eléctricos en un almacenamiento distribuido de electricidad plantea importantes desafíos.

Los vehículos híbridos enchufables y los coches eléctricos podrían llegar a ser una gran fuente de suministro de electricidad, o un sumidero, mayor que todo el sistema de generación de electricidad de Estados Unidos. ¿Es bueno o malo?

Es una pregunta que las empresas eléctricas y los encargados de formular políticas se vienen planteando mientras se preparan para la llegada de millones de nuevos vehículos con motor eléctrico.

A menos que los automóviles eléctricos se puedan cargar en los momentos de menor demanda de electricidad, podrían desbordar la red eléctrica o requerir grandes inversiones en nueva potencia de generación.

Pero Jasna Tomic, gerente del programa de nuevos combustibles de Calstart, un grupo sin fines de lucro que promueve el transporte limpio, considera el dilema como una gran oportunidad para que este tipo de vehículos sirvan como reserva para la red, a través del llamado “del vehículo a la red” (vehicle-to-grid), o tecnología V2G.

Si una cuarta parte del parque automovilístico de Estados Unidos fuera híbrido enchufable o eléctrico, podrían almacenar unos 750 gigavatios, Tomic destacó en una conferencia en San Francisco sobre Oportunidades de la movilidad conectada a la red eléctrica. Por supuesto, eso es una cuota de mercado que tardará décadas en llegar, pero cuando lo haga, superará el tamaño de la actual red eléctrica, señaló.

Mientras que los costes de capital por kilovatio de almacenamiento de los vehículos eléctricos es probable que excedan las tarifas promedio que cobran las empresas eléctricas, éstos están por debajo de los que pagan por la electricidad las empresas en los momentos de mayor demanda.


Electric Vehicles Could Surpass Grid or Support It

If a quarter of America’s cars went electric, they could store more energy than that produced for the nation’s entire electricity grid, an expert on electric transportation says. Making them a backup power source for the grid faces significant challenges, however.

Plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles could grow to be a greater source, or sink, of power than the entire American electricity generation system. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

It’s a question that utilities and policy makers have been grappling with as they prepare for what could be millions of new electric-powered vehicles to hit American streets. Unless those cars can be charged at times of lowest electricity demand, they could overwhelm the electric grid or require huge new investments in power generation.

But Jasna Tomic, new fuels program manager for Calstart, a nonprofit group promoting clean transportation, sees the conundrum as a big opportunity for such vehicles to serve as backup power for the grid, through so-called "vehicle-to-grid," or V2G, technology.

If a quarter of the nation’s car fleet was to go plug-in hybrid or electric, the combined energy they could store would equal about 750 gigawatts, Tomic said Thursday at the Opportunities in Grid-Connected Mobility conference in San Francisco. Of course, that’s a share of the market that could take decades to reach, but if it comes about, "That basically surpassed the size of the electric grid," she said.

And while the capital costs per kilowatt for that vehicle storage are likely to exceed the average rates that utilities charge for power, they’re below those that utilities pay for peak power demand times, when they have to call on seldom-used backup sources to meet the peak, she noted.

So when thinking of the demand that electric vehicles will place on the grid, "There’s no need to go only one way," she said. "We really could go both ways, and provide the power back to the grid. Think of the vehicles not only as transportation but as resources of power." That’s been an area of research for automakers, utilities and smart grid companies for some time.

A consortium including the University of Delaware, electric vehicle system maker AC Propulsion, utility Pepco, regional transmission organization PJM and demand response company Comverge is testing its own V2G technology. The Electric Power Research Institute is working with General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. on projects.

And smart grid software developer Gridpoint, which in September bought vehicle-to-grid software developer V2Green, has tested V2G technology with Duke Energy and Xcel Energy’s SmartGridCity project. Tomic said technologies like these could lead to new markets for electric vehicles that could help lower their cost, which is still seen as the main barrier to their widespread adoption.

Not that they could serve as baseload power, of course, since they’ll need that to be charged up, she said. But perhaps they could be linked up with utilities looking for new sources to cover their expensive peak power needs, she said. Several hundred thousand vehicles could likely provide enough power to serve utilities so-called "ancillary services" needs completely, she said.

And "You don’t need a smart grid to do ancillary services," Tomic maintained. While utilities have focused their V2G plans on establishing two-way communications between utilities and homes or businesses via smart meters, V2G efforts could use cellular networks, radio signals or Internet connections to handle the task, she said.

Electric and plug-in hybrids could be used to store power from renewable energy sources like wind, which is mostly generated at night when demand is lowest, she said. That’s something that Danish utility Dong Energy, IBM and a host of other partners are working on right now in Denmark (see IBM Tests Smart Charging in Denmark).

But many hurdles remain between the state of electric vehicle infrastructure today and making those vehicles viable sources of backup power, Tomic acknowledged. Not only do the vehicles in question need bi-directional power electronics, wireless communications and some form of on-board metering systems to handle the task, she said.

They will also require a hitherto-unknown level of cooperation between utilities and automakers, and those two have "never had anything to do with one another," she said. Joel Pointon, manager of electric transportation and clean transportation for San Diego Gas & Electric, noted that automakers will be concerned about subjecting car batteries to more frequent discharges and recharges involved with being used as backup power, which will lower their life spans.

Michael Tinskey, manager of hybrid and battery electric vehicle applications for Ford Motor Co. , agreed that right now Ford has no way to account for that in its warranty system. "We need to learn a lot more before we jump into that arena," he said. "The utilities aren’t ready, and neither are the car companies."

Smart Grids and Electric Vehicles

kangoo Smart Grids and Electric VehiclesIn the future, utilities will pay you to plug-in your vehicle. Millions will plug-in their electric vehicles (EV), plug-in hybrids (PHEV) and fuel cell vehicles (FCV) at night when electricity is cheap, then plug-in during the day when energy is expensive and sell those extra electrons at a profit. Vehicle to Grid (V2G) technology is a bi-directional electric grid interface that allows a plug-in to take energy from the grid or put it back on the grid. V2G helps solve the major problem that demand for electricity is high during the day when everything from industrial plants to air conditioning is running full blast and then excess electricity is wasted at night.

Several early models of passenger vehicles have enough energy stored in advanced batteries to power several homes for hours. Hybrid electric buses and heavy trucks could power many homes or a school or a hospital in an emergency. Recent announcements demonstrate that electric utilities and some auto makers want to make V2G a reality.

The Smart Grid Consortium, established in December 2007 by Xcel Energy, will select a community of approximately 100,000 residents to become a Smart Grid City using V2G. Potential benefits include lower utility bills for residents, smarter energy management, better grid reliability, improved energy efficiency, and support for EVs and PHEVs.

Current consortium members include Accenture, Current Group, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories and Ventyx. Smart Grid City will use a realtime high-speed two-way communication throughout the distribution grid. Smart meters and substations will be integral. Installation will be made of thousands of in-home control devices and the necessary systems to fully automate home energy use.

The current electrical grid is poorly designed for distributed generation of power. Individuals and businesses lose months and connect fees when they add solar and other forms of renewable energy to the grid. Smart Grid City will easily support up to 1,000 easily dispatched distributed generation technologies including PHEVs, distributed batteries, solar and wind.

In addition to Smart Grid City, another major EV/V2G initiative is unfolding.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance and Project Better Place have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to create a mass-market for electric vehicles in Israel which is an excellent target market: it has a sales tax exceeding 60% for gasoline vehicles, gasoline costs over $6 per gallon, most driving fits the range of electric vehicles, and the government strongly supports energy independence.

Project Better Place plans to deploy a massive network of battery charging spots. Driving range will no longer be an obstacle, because customers will be able to plug their cars into charging units in any of the 500,000 charging spots in Israel. An on-board computer system will indicate to the driver the remaining power supply and the nearest charging spot. Nissan, through its joint venture with NEC, has created a battery pack that meets the requirements of the electric vehicle and will produce it in mass volume. The entire framework will go through a series of tests starting this year.

The Israeli model is different than the rapid battery swap model that Better Place has promoted as better than “dangerous” fast charging. For the future, Renault is working on development of exchangeable batteries for continuous mobility.

As part of the solution framework, the Israeli government will provide tax incentives to customers, Renault will supply the electric vehicles, and Project Better Place will construct and operate an Electric Recharge Grid across the entire country. Electric vehicles will be available for customers in 2011.

Just as wireless service providers offer smartphones at discounted prices, Project Better Place will offer discounted electric vehicles with usage pricing plans. Pre-paid 600 kilometer cards are one approach that is suggested. A free car on a four-year plan in France is another idea mentioned by Shai Agassi, CEO of Project Better Place. Annual use of an EV should be less than the average cost of $8,000 per year for using a gasoline in many countries including the USA.

Shai Agassi predicts that Israel will have over 100,000 electric vehicles in use by 2010. This will be five percent of the nation’s vehicle population. The number represents a significant step towards energy independence.

Project Better Place has already received over $200 million of venture capital investment. Shai Agassi presented their new business model at Davos. Mr. Agassi was an executive at SAP that lead the software company to being the enterprise software leader ahead of Oracle, IBM, and all others. Agassi’s Davos Insights

Success with V2G would be a double win for electric utilities. Millions of EVs and PHEVs would expand the sale of electricity as an alternative to oil. Utilities could avoid building more dirty peaking power plants. Instead they could buy back electricity at peak hours from vehicle drivers. Clean Fleet Article It would be a financial win-win for all.