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As we move towards the future of having electric cars as the main type of vehicle on the roads an extra benefit has been realized by manufacturers and researchers in the field.
The idea of Vehicle-to-grid (or V2G) stems from the fact that electric cars will spend about 95% of their time parked. The idea is that when the vehicle is plugged in to charge, intelligent sensors will communicate with the power grids and interact with them to provide power in times of peak demand or slow down the charging rate.
How V2G Will Deliver More Power
There are three ways that a V2G systems could work.
Firstly, for a battery powered or hybrid vehicle, the excess charge in the battery will push some power back into the grid when the power demands are high.
The second way is that a hybrid, or a vehicle running on fuel cells, switches on its combustion engine to deliver power in to the grid when needed.
The third way is a solar vehicle, using the excess power generated by its solar panels (ie. When not in use) sells power back to the grid.
The Value of V2G
It has been estimated that the power smoothing delivered by electric vehicles will be worth around $4000 per year to electricity companies. The V2G system will essentially serve as a massive distributed backup power supply for the power grid.
Presently, electricity providers are required to have a certain number of excess power plants to meet peak demands when needed. The power plants usually used to deliver peak power are coal or gas powered since they are reliable and provide power readily. They are also the most polluting of all the power plants.
The existence of a widespread V2G system will help to make solar and wind power more viable, because the batteries will compensate for the irregular power supply of these technologies.
One of the problems with this system is that a lot of electric vehicles use Lead Acid rechargeable batteries, which weaken over charging cycles. This means despite the $4000 estimated value of a V2G system, the extra wear on the battery could offset this greatly. As a guide, electric car batteries cost between 15,000 and 30,000 so wearing these out faster is a significant cost to the owner.
V2G seems to be a novel idea, but will take some time to work on a widespread basis. One of the main things limiting electric cars is the battery costs, so when we see these come down then V2G will be more feasible for a number of reasons. It’s a good future to look forwards to where we have a minimum of power plants producing power, because our cars are providing a huge power buffer to keep the grid alive.