What is V2G?
V2G or vehicle-to-grid is a term used to describe the connection of electric vehicles onto the interconnected power network with facility for the transfer of energy between vehicle and grid.
As the sustainable energy industry takes off, it brings with it a number of issues, one of which is the intermittency of power generated from natural resources eg wind, solar etc. As power generation is decentralised, there must be new distributed ways of storing the generated energy during times of low electricity demand. Whilst it is possible to store surplus electricity in large battery storage facilities, this is very expensive. With the electric car market set to boom, there exists a potential win-win for the utility and the car owner where the cost of the battery is shared.
This little video provides an excellent introduction to vehicle to grid and how it is taking off in the US.
Plug In Hybrids - What are they?
You may also hear the term plug-in-hybrid, which is essentially an electric vehicle with low battery storage, yet has a fuel powered generator on board to give the vehicle extra range. Plug in hybrids are a step in the right direction and will certainly play an important role in the transition from petrol power to renewable energy through electric charging and storage, however our real future seems to be firmly rooted in a 100% electric vehicle market, especially as we see technology continually improve battery performance.
Here is a video describing some Plug In Hybrid technology in the US. One of the keypoints in the video is the mention that the technology is here, it just comes down to economics.
With a considerable price drop for plug in electric vehicles and fully electric vehicles due to large scale lithium ion battery manufacture on its way in the next 5 - 10 years we are faced with finding the optimal time to convert to an electric vehicle.
Modern electric cars have a battery and an electric motor, and can travel several hundred km's on one charge. Many come with Lithium Ion batteries as they are the most cost effective high density battery option. These batteries have enough energy to power an average household for a few days, with enough energy left over to drive a short trip to work.
If the car was plugged into the grid over night, the batteries could store energy from say wind generation and then during peak periods sell it back to the grid. This is great in theory but can it be implemented in Australia? Of course it can, however a detailed study needs to be carried out making sure it is rolled out in a fashion which is both adaptable, secure and standardised.
Such a project will require co-operation from the state power utility, the transport industry, sustainable energy producers and customers, all with a common goal of pushing our energy industry towards a sustainable and economically viable future.
What are some of the issues with vehicle to grid technology?
The main problem with Vehicle-2-Grid technology is the difficulty in getting the infrastructure up and running. Almost a chicken or the egg scenario. No-one wants to buy an electric car until the supporting infrastructure is in place with recharge points and economically viable vehicle to grid payback schemes, and no utility wants to spent the millions upgrading the distribution network to support such vehicles until there are vehicles to support. Unfortunately this make it difficult to get things rolling, however as we have seen in the US it is possible if enough people can see the long term advantages of such systems to the economy and the environment.
If every suburb in Australia installed just one vehicle to grid recharge point, then Australia's vehicle to grid coverage would look like this: