Monday, December 31, 2007

How Electric Cars Could Save the Grid

Their idea is simple: electric cars have to plug into the power grid anyway to get their batteries recharged. Why not use those batteries collectively as electricity "sponges" to soak up and wring out the excess power from utility companies that fluctuates notoriously on any given day?

Utility companies would benefit because they'd have a place to store energy; car owners would receive a fee to participate; and car manufacturers would have an attractive selling-point by which to promote their vehicles.

And it doesn't take much to get started.

"If you can collect 300 cars, that fleet is sufficient for a utility operator to run a V2G operation," said team member Ajay Prasad, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Delaware in Newark.

Car owners drive, on average, about one to two hours per day. So statistically, a large percentage of the total population of cars is sitting idle at any given time.

At the same time, electric grid operators play a balancing game of generating electricity that will meet customer demand. On top of that, they must pay to keep a generator fired up that will serve as a back up in the event of a catastrophic failure on the grid. Until the failure, that energy is wasted.

But if all of those parked cars were electric and plugged into the grid, the utility operator could automatically draw on the batteries exactly as needed, meeting demand. And instead of paying a power plant to generate energy that would be wasted anyway, they would pay a fee to the electric car owner for making the battery available.

This sounds fine and dandy, except it won't work in India. Well, it won't be needed in India until far into the future. I guess our current needs far exceed what the grid can pump.

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