The Fuse

Pilot Program in Denmark Reflects Large Upside for Vehicle-to-Grid Technology

by Matt Piotrowski | August 25, 2017

Making money while you park your electric car may seem entirely far-fetched. But in Denmark, it is already a reality. In trials with parked electric vehicles, some owners of Nissan LEAFs have earned money by sending power back to the grid.

Francisco Carranza, Nissan Europe’s director of energy services, recently told Bloomberg that fleet operators of Nissan e-NV200 vans earned about 1,300 euros ($1,530) in the past year by using bidirectional energy flows, marking the first successful commercial vehicle-to-grid (V2G) hub in the world. The Japanese automaker worked with Italy’s Enel Energia on the project.

The growth of electric cars and plug-in hybrids, and the expectations for deeper penetration in coming decades, will result in the potential of feeding energy stored in vehicle batteries back to the electrical grid to smooth peaks and valleys in electricity demand and lower the burden of demand volatility on utilities. This should help the grid stabilize and make electric vehicles more attractive to consumers because of financial incentives.

Since most vehicles are parked for more than 95 percent of the time, grid operators can use inactive EV batteries through connected power cords to alleviate imbalances.

Since most vehicles are parked for more than 95 percent of the time, grid operators can use inactive EV batteries through connected power cords to alleviate imbalances. The vehicles and their batteries can be used as temporary stationary energy storage.

Nissan’s Carranza warned that proper management of the grid is critical as more EVs are on the road. “If you blindingly deploy in the market a massive number of electric cars without any visibility or control over the way they impact the electricity grid, you might create new problems,” he told Bloomberg.

The increase in EVs will create challenges for utilities, as they will boost demand for power. Bloomberg New Energy Finance says EVs will account for more than 50 percent of total vehicle sales in 2040.

This growth will spur companies to find solutions to relieve stress on the grid, boost efficiency, and provide EV drivers with cost incentives—like the one in Denmark—to release energy from their cars during peak demand periods.

The hope is that V2G will become widespread as the fleet of EVs increases.

The hope is that V2G will become widespread as the fleet of EVs increases. So far, V2G is still in its infancy but holds a lot of promise. Besides Nissan’s testing V2G technology throughout Europe, there are pilot programs for V2G in the U.S., too, but not on a large scale. The Department of Defense (DOD) launched V2G pilots at a number of installations as part of its effort to reduce its own dependence on oil, including at the Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California.

The Air Force’s pilot in LA is set to finish in September, and the DOD will publish a final evaluation on its findings late this year or early 2018. Even though the DOD-funded project will end next month, it will be extended thanks to a grant from the California Energy Commission. Major Jake Bowen told The Fuse that, after the demonstration, which went live in December 2015, that some systems are ready or near ready for commercialization. The technology has “experienced growing pains” but it is “advancing the reliability of energy storage.” He believes that first generation of V2G technology will learn from the DOD’s demonstration, but scalable commercialization is still 5-10 years away.

Meanwhile, Nuvve, a start-up that is partnering with University of California San Diego (UCSD), has made waves as of late with its $8 million project that will draw power from parked EVs. “Vehicle to Grid technology allows a parked electric vehicle to become part of an electric grid—you can charge your vehicle at night, drive it to work in the morning and then charge the energy back into the grid when you park,” UCSD said in a statement. “Charging and discharging is flexible and based on real-time requests from the grid operator. Drivers would be paid every time the grid operator uses energy from their cars while still being guaranteed the expected level of charge needed to operate the vehicle.”

One of the worries about V2G, however, is that it will degrade batteries quicker than expected. But that may not necessarily be the case. As a University of Warwick study points out: “The smart grid is able to extend the life of the EV battery beyond the case in which there is no V2G.”

“The smart grid is able to extend the life of the EV battery beyond the case in which there is no V2G.”

If that is the case, then V2G looks even more attractive and could be a key in supporting the grid as demand increases. In her book The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future, Gretchen Bakke lays out nicely the enormous potential this new technology holds. “With electric car batteries, if there were enough of them and if they were designed to both give to and take power from the grid, peak load would be smoothed to a gentle rise at the workday’s end and variable generation might be balanced easily and thoroughly.”

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