Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G): Fantasy or Future?
To finish our series on reader engagement with the topic of electric vehicles, I'll open with a notion advanced by Wayne Longcore, director of enterprise architecture and standards at Consumers Energy, which provides electric service to more than 1.8 million customers in 275 cities in Michigan.
This gentleman has street cred; see my previous column on his outlook.
One of Longcore's favorite theses is the need to build "agility" into "transformational architecture" for the smart grid. He has suggested that in the future, the "grid" will refer to the sum of all devices connected to electron paths - a multi-directional, cohesive "Internet of things."
"Mostly fantasy is how I would characterize the hype about smart grid in general and electric vehicles in particular," one correspondent wrote. "The path to adoption of both will be much longer and more difficult than most proponents realize. Students of technology diffusion history understand that the path is always more convoluted than anticipated.
"The human element is under-appreciated," this writer continued. "Aside from a handful of aficionados, how many people really want to micromanage their electricity consumption? The notion that I would purchase an electric car and allow it to be used as backup capacity to a utility, regardless of compensation, is pure fantasy."
The next contributor wrote that he was glad we addressed the smart charger for EVs developed at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
"They're on the right track," this writer added. "[The previous writer] makes one excellent point, which is the human factor. The V2G concept that envisions using EV storage for grid balancing is unlikely to come to fruition because customers will [want] a fully charged vehicle without worrying about how much storage capacity their utility is using. If utilities insist on V2G, electric vehicles are unlikely to catch on."
Just a minute there, another correspondent said.
"The comments about the human factor making V2G a fantasy is like saying new cars are unsuitable for the road because they have square wheels," an EV defender wrote. "Build them with round wheels and they'll do the job. Swappable battery packs are not just a technical detail, it's the round wheel. See Project Better Place.
"Picture fuel stations with thousands of battery packs stored underground waiting for their turn to be loaded into a car by a robotic arm. Can you now see the potential for boosting the grid at critical peak times and charging at off peak?
"Hurdles and obstacles to difficult problems require innovative solutions, not dismissive labeling such as 'fantasy' and 'hype.'"
Another EV defender picked up the thread.
"The 'nay-sayers' were discouraging from the start. Today, V2G is on the verge of shaking up the electric and automotive industries like a tsunami. Already some island states and countries are putting V2G plans in place to incorporate wind and other renewable generation with the battery storage available in electric vehicles.
"When the electric utilities realize that needed grid storage can be provided by the utility at great cost or motivate their customers to buy and use V2G cars, the decision will be simple."
Hold on, pardner, another correspondent wrote.
"When considering the energy portion of the equation, what is meaningful are the kilowatt hours added and extracted from the batteries, the cost differential between charging at off-peak and discharging back to the grid at or near peak and the inherent losses associated with the conversion and storage," this writer said.
"Unless you are able to receive orders of magnitude more for the energy the system provides then your cost to charge it there is no way V2G can be viable.
"Ultimately, the only electrical storage system that holds any economic viability remains pumped storage, in my opinion."
The discussion continued, but you get the flavor here.
The dichotomous viewpoints here may reflect the "market," such as it is. For instance, in February we reported on a deal between the University of Delaware and PJM Interconnection for V2G arrangements in which "real money is changing hands."
On the other hand, last week, an Electric Drive Transportation Association webcast featured representatives from Southern California Edison, Duke Energy and the Electric Power Research Institute. They appeared to agree that utilities have their hands full figuring out how to accommodate EVs. For V2G, for now, they have "no hard plans."
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