Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology takes national stage

Non-polluting V2G electric vehicles would help the environment, reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and also put potentially thousands of dollars a year back in their owner’s pocket, according to Willett Kempton, professor in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment and director of UD’s Center for Carbon-free Power Integration.

The first V2G patent was filed on behalf of UD by Kempton and Jasna Tomic, who earned her doctorate at UD and now works as new-fuels project manager for CALSTART, a nonprofit energy research center dedicated to high-tech, clean transportation technologies based in Pasadena, Calif.

Kempton’s presentation was part of the AAAS session “Toward Green Mobility: Integrating Electric Drive Vehicles and Smart Grid Technology,” organized by the Alliance for Automotive Manufacturers and the U.S. Department of Energy.

The University of Delaware is operating the world’s first vehicle-to-grid (V2G) system, which enables electric cars to provide an electricity balancing service to the power grid and get paid for it. The balancing service, called “frequency regulation,” keeps the entire electric grid stable by compensating for mismatches between power generated and power used.

Three UD electric cars are connected to the power grid when they are not being driven, generating $5 to $10 a day, according to Ken Huber, manager of new technology at PJM Interconnection and a co-presenter at the AAAS session. The company, which coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in all or parts of 13 Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia, pays UD, the electric vehicles’ owner, for this service to the power grid.

Once the technology is commercialized, Kempton says an electric car owner would need to invest about $1,500 up front, at current prices, to have V2G controls added to an electric car. Of course, he notes, one first would have to buy an electric car capable of providing two-way power flow, which is still priced well above gasoline cars.

Once the electric car is V2G-equipped, he says a car owner could make $3,000 per year providing power-balancing service for the grid.

Reflecting on the success of the AAAS symposium, Kempton notes, “In 12 years, this has gone from a fringe idea and some equations, to a running system with widespread acceptance, thanks to a lot of work by about 20 faculty and students here at UD, plus our commercial partners in the electric and automotive industries.”

A major advantage of V2G technology for the environment, Kempton says, is that it will make possible much larger expansion of renewable energy sources.

“This is because it is a form of low-cost storage that can take in electricity when an abundance of solar or wind power is available and can release electricity when there is not enough — all without burning any fossil fuel,” he says.

As noted in the AAAS session abstract, accelerated adoption of electric drive vehicles could greatly diminish U.S. dependence on foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. President Obama has set a goal of 1 million plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in the national fleet by 2015.

A bill introduced in Congress in December 2009, H.R. 4399, would provide funding to the Department of Energy and the U.S. Postal Service to convert existing mail trucks and manufacture new ones to use the UD-developed V2G technology.

Earlier this year, the University of Delaware announced the first licensing of its V2G technology by AutoPort, Inc., a major vehicle processing and modification facility in New Castle, Del. The non-exclusive license is in the area of commercial fleet vehicles.

AutoPort is now partnering with AC Propulsion, which makes the electric-drive system, to make several electric vehicles for the state of Delaware fleet, and to convert vehicles for evaluation by the U.S. Postal Service and other fleet operators.

Founded in 1848, AAAS serves some 272 affiliated societies and academies of science and publishes the peer-reviewed journal Science.

The AAAS annual meeting is one of the world’s largest interdisciplinary scientific events, with broad national and international media coverage. Kempton’s talk was covered by The Financial Times, Science News, The Irish Times,, the French news agency Agence France-Presse, and many other media.

Article by Tracey Bryant