My ride? It’s a power plant
Electric cars could sell battery power back to the grid in an emerging plan called V2G – ‘vehicle to grid.’
(Page 3 of 3)
The business model
George Parsons, a University of Delaware economist and part of Kempton’s 15-member team, is surveying consumer attitudes about the critical trade-offs between driving range, the time it takes to charge, gasoline costs, and pollution reduction.
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
“Of all the surveys I’ve done, the V2G question is one of the most complex,” Dr. Parsons says. “If you can afford to buy a V2G vehicle, will people care about the cash enough to plug it in all the time?”
Meanwhile, Nathaniel Pearre, a research assistant, is analyzing actual driving patterns in a huge database to see how many V2G vehicles could be expected to plug in at any given time of day. While about 57 vehicles with high-capacity batteries could provide one megawatt of power, 200 vehicles will probably be needed to meet the demand since others could be on the road or unplugged, he says.
“It’s highly variable and fluctuating until we reach the size of a fleet,” Mr. Pearre says. “The first vehicle manufacturer that offers this kind of value to their clients is going to clean up.”
Keeping track of how much power an individual car supplies to the grid – and how much its owner should be paid – no matter where the vehicle is plugged in is another hurdle for Kempton’s team.
Even so, “it is probably a little easier than keeping track of minutes used on cellphones, which have to work while they are dynamically moving,” says Keith Decker a computer science professor at the University of Delaware. “The cars don’t have to move while they are part of the system.”
His team is developing algorithms that will not only undergird the accounting, but turn cars’ dashboard computers into “smart agents” that predict – based on driving patterns – how much battery power they will have to sell tomorrow or next month. Such knowledge is critical to any power contract.
V2G cars on the road
With Kempton’s team pulling together the knowledge base, Tom Gage, president of AC Propulsion of San Dimas, Calif., is the mastermind behind the all- electric “E-box” vehicle. His company has converted a handful of Toyota Scions into all-electric-drive vehicles with V2G software and connectors.
A handful of these 120- to 150-mile-range vehicles have been built so far at a cost of about $70,000 each. The E-boxes have about 36 kilowatt hours of power, more than double the battery capacity of a Chevy Volt. Prices could fall as low as $39,000 per vehicle as battery and vehicle volumes grow, writes Leonard Beck, a V2G expert at Eastern utility company Delmarva Power in his book “V2G-101.”
Not willing to wait, Kempton has lined up car customizer Autoport to begin converting Scions into all-electric vehicles using AC Propulsion technology.
Despite remaining hurdles, Kempton is upbeat. “We’re just beginning,” he says. “We’ll get there.”