Imagine if you were able to fuel up your car at one petrol station and sell it back for more money when the same station was getting low on fuel.
This is what could result from Vehicle to Grid technology (V2G). V2G describes a system where electric vehicles can sell power back to the grid.
In theory it means that if you power your car with solar power, you could end up being paid to drive it.
Practical applications for electric vehicles
There is enormous potential for different applications to take effect once electric vehicles become commonplace.
For example, when workers drive to work in electric vehicles, companies could power up the cars for free during the sunny daylight hours using power generated from solar panels.
Then, towards evening or during a period of high demand when the electricity price rises, the company could take back a small percentage of that electricity to power lighting.
Or some of that electricity could be injected back into the grid.
It is a win-win situation.
Instead of having a 100% charge with a couple hundred miles, people had a 95% charge. It would leave the employees with more than enough charge to get home.
Current projects using V2G
V2G is still in its infancy. But it is more than just theory and there are a number of development projects taking around the world.
The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) has been looking at bringing in V2G technology as part of its Integrated Network Testbed for Energy Grid Research and Technology Experimentation (Integrate) project.
NREL hopes to create a system where systems will be able a connect in and out of the grid, much like a computer would jump into a wifi network.
Nissan’s vehicle-to-grid service
In the UK, Nissan and energy supplier Ovo is set to offer the “vehicle-to-grid” service to buyers of Nissan’s new Leaf electric vehicle from next year.
Ovo customers will be able to install a charger in their home that will allow the supplier to manage the car’s battery.
The system allows the owner to set a minimum battery charge for the following day’s driving. Ovo then trades electricity, topping up the battery during off-peak periods and selling electricity back into the grid during peak times.
It is estimated it could save the user as much as $600 off the annual cost of charging an electric vehicle.
Challenges to general use of V2G
Currently, most electric vehicle and charging technology is unidirectional. This means that vehicles can only import electricity into the battery and charging stations can only export it.
So, working with NREL, the University of Delaware has created an open-source protocol that will make it easier for companies to produce multi-directional technology.
Electric cars have a crucial role to play in electrification. First and foremost, they are driving down the cost of battery storage. In 1990, the cost per kWh of a lithium-ion battery was $10,000. By 2019, this could be as low as $100 per kWh.
If technology like V2G takes off, then the public will need to buy into it. Essentially, it is a question of whether you like the idea of a utility being plugged into your car.
What do you think? Are the cost savings attractive or are you concerned about handing control of your vehicle? Add your comment below.