There are some among the powers-that-be who are salivating over the thought of vast parking lots full of electric vehicles, each plugged into the smart grid. Every so often this salivation bubbles up with articles glowing with the possibility of your electric car powering your house. So far that’s been little more than a dream and a few “V2G” (Vehicle to Grid) demonstration projects. General Electric (a.k.a. GE) and Nissan announced today they would work together to accelerate development of electric car smart grid integration, in a bid to accelerate electric vehicle adoption.
GE and Nissan say they’ve identified two major research topics to focus on:
- Integrating electric cars with “homes and buildings”
- Electric vehicle charging dynamics, and the impact on the grid when there will be millions of electric cars in use
Equipment made by GE either generates or distributes over 25% of the worlds electricity. Hence, they claim it makes sense for Nissan and GE to form a partnership in this arena. However it’s not like Nissan and GE are the totality of the companies involved with either vehicle electrification or electricity generation and distribution. Both operate in markets shared by multiple companies, who cooperate/compete with each other via standards organizations. In the bigger picture what’s happening is that standards for electricity distribution (the electrical code) are in a state of flux as the smart grid is being defined and built, and these have to mesh with electric cars whose standards are governed by the SAE and other automotive engineering standards organizations.
Nissan and GE are already working together on a couple research study projects, and will expand the scope of their joint study.
Integrating electric cars with the Smart Home:- GE has a “Smart Home” concept, and the two companies will study how to integrate electric vehicles into the smart home. This means “methods to connect the vehicle to the home” integrating it with a building’s electricity equipment. How does an electric car impact electricity use patterns and electricity cost.
Gathering electricity usage data:- Generating statistical models of electricity use for electric cars, to estimate the aggregate effect of millions of electric vehicles.
Electricity management systems for homes and buildings integrated with electric vehicle charging:- Rather than a “dumb” grid where we plug in whatever we want whenever we want, how can electricity demand be better managed. We have these newfangled machines you may have heard of called computers, in other words can computerized systems better manage electricity demand than human run systems?
Taking advantage of energy storage and renewable power to manage electric vehicle charging:- There are several kinds of energy storage systems being developed whose general purpose is to keep the electricity grid stable. Rather than fire up new electricity generator plants at times of peak electricity demand (say, on a hot august afternoon), energy storage systems would gather electricity during off-peak times to release that electricity during peak times.
Two-way power flow between vehicle and grid:- Here’s where the powers-that-be start salivating about electric cars. EV’s carry significant on-board energy storage systems, the LEAF having a 24 kilowatt-hour battery pack, and tomorrow’s EV’s will carry much more electricity capacity. A parking lot full of electric cars is a huge energy storage system, which the powers-that-be want to tap during times of peak electricity demand. Two-way power flow means the electricity grid operators would be able to extract some electricity from parked cars if needed to stabilize the grid because of peak electricity demand.
Electricity from renewable electricity sources like wind or solar power is “intermittent”. Wind power is only available when its windy, solar power only when it’s sunny. Energy storage systems are a key to adopting intermittent renewable energy sources so that electricity can be stored e.g. when it’s windy, and then released later when its needed. A big question hanging in mid-air is, who will fund building these energy storage systems and how will they be integrated into the electricity grid?
GE, Nissan Sign R&D Agreement to Fast Track Broader Adoption of Electric Cars