Vehicle to Grid – How Electric Vehicles Interact With a Smart Power Electricity Network

What is Vehicle to Grid
Also called Vehicle 2 Grid or V2G, Vehicle to Grid is the process of connecting your electric car into the transmission electricity network. If you have an electric vehicle then you will definitely want to consider setting up V2G through a simple metering system and contract with your local electricity supplier.

What do I need to consider before deciding to connect my vehicle to the grid?

  • Firstly you have to have an electric car which can be charged by a standard electricity outlet.
  • The second thing you will want to do is determine some basic driving habits – i.e. if you drive almost your entire vehicle range to work and back every day, then there is unlikely to be much energy left over to swap between your battery and the grid, which makes setting up V2G a little redundant
  • Having decided that V2G connectivity is possible and feasible, you will need to look at the right products on the market to help you achieve this. I.e. which inverter should be used and which electricity trading contract will suit your needs the best?
  • If you decide suddenly that V2G is not good for you, how can you get out of an otherwise more expensive contract?

Once these basic items have been checked off the list, it is time to call up your utility and start the process of applying for V2G. You can then purchase a suitable inverter which allows you to feed back into the grid (this will be similar if not identical to the type of inverters used on solar PV grid connected power supplies). Of course you will have to decide what sized inverter to go for.

For example, a 5kW inverter may cost $1000 and a 2kW inverter may cost $600. Therefore you have to be sure that you can recover the $400 over being able to sell a higher rate of electricity in peak times. Some simple maths will help you work out the optimal solution, but just be aware of the various pay offs for each option.

Why is Vehicle to Grid (V2G) Good?
Vehicle to Grid applications have a number of benefits for all sorts of businesses and stakeholders. Vehicle to Grid (V2G):

  • Empowers the home consumer to make sensible choices about when they use their electricity through smart metering
  • saves the consumer money in the long run through effective electricity management
  • is green! Every time you supply the grid with electricity during the yearly peak energy demand, you are reducing the need to upgrade the electricity network with more transmission lines and generators
  • You are helping to bring electric vehicles (EV’s) onto the market
  • You are reducing your carbon footprint! This is a big ones these days
  • The electricity company can save money and reduce their unit electricity prices, or reduce the need to increase them
  • reduce the amount of electricity transmission line needed. I.e. the car transports the electricity to where it is needed.
  • Cuts down on the amount of fuel stations required
  • Reduces our addiction to foreign oil through the accelerated introduction of electric vehicles and ability to replace fossil fuel generation with renewable energy generation.
  • Allows more sustainable energy and renewable energy to be introduced onto the electricity grid, as electric vehicle batteries can now act as a buffer to intermittent generation.

The last point is an important one. Traditional transmission networks are struggling to cope with large percentages of intermittent renewable and sustainable energy generation, as electricity generation from these sources is largely dependent on the elements. Therefore to have the ability to store electricity somewhere is important. In many countries power utilities are approaching this by pumping water up a hill and regenerating during peak times (~60% efficiency) or storing hydrogen formed by electrolysis underground ready for re generation (~40% efficiency). Storing electricity in batteries is a much higher efficiency (60% – 90%) however is a little costly.

Japan uses large battery sheds to store small amounts of energy, however vehicle to grid systems also work very well as storage mechanisms and are likely to play this role in the future as more electric vehicles hit the market. How soon we will see such networks will largely rely on the countries commitment to renewable and sustainable energy sources, as well as the abundance of wind, sun and wave energy. Although many companies claim to have a green lining, short term economics of such projects still remains the number one driver for the introduction of such technology.

The advantage to the end consumer who is running a vehicle to grid system is the savings in electricity for essentially hiring out the storage space in their electric car battery. So as we can see, it is a win win for many as it not only reduces the stress on our electricity transmission and generation networks, allows more sustainable energy to be placed on the system with lower carbon emissions, but also saves the end user money whilst making electric vehicles more affordable. It also weans us off our foreign oil addiction through the cost effective introduction of electric vehicles, a topical issue as we approach peak oil status around the world.

For more information you may want to consult your electricity network to find out about their smart metering tariffs. You will also want to look into the purchase of an electric vehicle, or an electric vehicle conversion in able to make use of the vehicle-2-grid (V2G) technology. I guess we can all look forward to a cleaner, greener, cheaper carbon restrained future, and V2G is going to help us get there in a big way!