Congress considers bill on V2G technology

A bill introduced in Congress yesterday by U.S. Rep. Jose E. Serrano (D-New York) would provide funding to the Department of Energy and U.S. Postal Service to convert existing mail trucks and manufacture new ones to use vehicle-to-grid, or V2G, technology, which was developed at the University of Delaware.

Through V2G, power generated by electric vehicles can be returned to the nation’s electric grid.

The bill is designed “to further the national deployment of electric drive vehicles” and “to strengthen and enhance the national power grid through the integration of such electric vehicles.”

It provides for the manufacture, testing and delivery of at least 20,000 electric drive vehicles for use by the Postal Service.

A primary goal of the bill is to stimulate private industry development of electric drive vehicles, and advanced powertrains and battery packs, and to develop an infrastructure for electric vehicle battery recharging.

The V2G concept originated at the University of Delaware, with a 1997 article by Willett Kempton, professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment and director of the Center for Carbon-free Power Integration, and Steven E. Letendre, associate professor of management and environmental studies at Green Mountain College in Vermont.

Since, Kempton said, the V2G concept has been expanded and made into working systems, with UD leading the intellectual, design and policy effort, with funding, vehicle systems and power system integration by multiple partners.

This is an expanding area of research and development for the University, with about 18 faculty and students working on V2G projects in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, the departments of Mechanical Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering, and the Department of Computer and Information Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences. This work has been funded by the Delaware Green Energy Fund, Google, Pepco Holdings, Inc., and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Kempton said many companies and analysts are working on V2G now, adding that “forward-thinking and savvy legislators are incorporating it into law and incentives to move this U.S.-developed technology to market faster than our economic competitors do.”

UD is part of the Mid-Atlantic Grid Interactive Cars Consortium, which is working to develop, test and demonstrate V2G technology.

The state of Delaware has advanced corporate and state policies on V2G. On Jan. 9, 2009, the City of Newark became the first electric utility in the United States to approve the use of an electric vehicle to store and provide power for the local electric grid. Delmarva Power did so shortly afterwards, and PJM Interconnect is dispatching the vehicles in Delaware to provide real-time grid services.

A Sept. 21 event marked the launch of the first vehicle-to-grid (V2G) electric cars made in Delaware and the signing of Senate Bill 153 by Gov. Jack A. Markell, which rewards owners of V2G technology for plugging in. This is the first law of its kind in the nation and sets a model for other states, Kempton said.

What is V2G?

Electric-drive vehicles, whether powered by batteries, fuel cells, or gasoline hybrids, have within them the energy source and power electronics capable of producing the 60 Hz AC electricity that powers our homes and offices. When connections are added to allow this electricity to flow from cars to power lines, we call it "vehicle to grid" power, or V2G. Cars pack a lot of power. One typical electric-drive vehicle can put out over 10kW, the average draw of 10 houses. The key to realizing economic value from V2G is precise timing of its grid power production to fit within driving requirments while meeting the time-critical power "dispatch" of the electric distribution system.

V2G vehicles work like an electrical sponge, capable of absorbing excess energy when demand for power is low, and returning some back to the electric grid when the demand for power is high.

While the vehicles do not generate electricity like solar panels or wind turbines, their ability to provide electricity back to the electric grid means at times V2G customers’ meters will actually run backwards.

“This technology improves the electric system by providing balancing power via storage that would otherwise require burning fossil fuels to produce,” Kempton said.