Battery manufacturers vs. V2G -- no easy winners
V2G technology is receiving a lot of popular media coverage these days. The idea that we can plug in and sell back energy from our electric vehicle battery has a certain appeal in today's demand response environment. But is the idea truly viable, especially from the battery manufacturers' point of view?
Dr. Michael Kintner-Meyer, an electrical power systems integration engineer with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, says new research and technology from the national lab shows there's an alternative that's also beneficial to both utility and consumer. Speaking at the 2nd Annual Smart Grid for Utilities conference in Austin this week, he presented an alternative, plug-and-play option that's easy for consumers to use and utilities to enable, and saves on battery wear and tear, at the same time.
PNNL's Smart Charger Controller was designed to monitor and mitigate peak demand on the grid, such as dinnertime, so that your automobile isn't adding to the power load at the traditional early evening peak. Currently at prototype stage, the controller device uses a low-range wireless technology to communicate with the power grid to determine the best and cheapest time to recharge the vehicle. The plug-and-play concept involves integrating the device in the car's navigational system, so the auto's owner can choose either the "Charge Now" button or simply set the system to a "Charge By" time for the next morning. (This is ideal for the consumer who wants to take advantage of non-peak electricity prices, but doesn't want to have to plug in at 2 a.m.).
The Smart Charger Controller "never turns the battery into a generator," Kintner-Meyer explains, so the utility is never extracting power from the battery. It's a one-way flow, but optimized for flexible load smart charging. PNNL's technology should leave battery manufacturers extremely happy, especially in California, where electric car batteries are required to have a 10-year lifetime warranty. "Battery manufacturers probably would not like to have the utility cycling energy out of the battery," Kintner-Meyer notes, explaining that each cycle of the battery, whether it be driving, or sending energy back to the grid, shortens its life.
Simply, the question becomes: do you earn enough by selling your auto's extra power back to the utility to cover the cost of replacing your battery prematurely?
PNNL is currently seeking industry partners to move the project from in-lab prototype to an end-to-end, real-world demonstration.