US project seeks to make the family car a cash cow

Toyota Scion xB
US researchers unveiled this converted Toyota Scion xB, seen here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, that earns money for its driver instead of guzzling it up in gasoline and maintenance costs as it can be linked to a power grid and serve as a cash cow.

US researchers unveiled a vehicle Thursday that earns money for its driver instead of guzzling it up in gasoline and maintenance costs.

The converted Toyota Scion xB, shown at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science here, is the first electric car to be linked to a grid and serve as a cash cow.

"This is the first vehicle that's ever been paid to participate in the grid -- the first proof of concept vehicle," Ken Huber, who oversees technological development at wholesale electricity coordinator PJM Interconnection, told AFP.

The presentation of the box-like, unassuming looking Scion was the researchers' way of introducing the "vehicle-to-grid" (V2G) concept as it begins to gain momentum in the United States and around the world.

V2G projects with hybrid cars that use electricity and gas to store energy in their batteries and feed it back into the are up and running in the United States, and the drive now is to produce all electric vehicles to plug into the power grid.

"This makes the car useful not only when it's being driven, but also when it's parked, as long as you remember to plug it in," said Willett Kempton, who is leading a V2G project at the University of Delaware.

A V2G car is connected via an Internet-over-powerline connection that sends a signal from inside the car's computer to an aggregator's server.

The aggregator acts as the middleman between the car owner and power grid management companies, which are constantly trying to keep electricity output at a constant level.

When the grid needs more power due to a surge in demand, power companies usually draw from traditional power plants, which in the United States are often coal-fired and leave a large carbon footprint.

When V2G becomes more widespread, the power could be drawn from millions of vehicles plugged into sockets in home garages or from commercial fleets, such as the US Postal Service's vans, for a much smaller footprint than that of the power plants.

Grid management companies like PJM Interconnection currently pay around 30 dollars an hour when taking power from a car.

V2G is still a new concept, but it is gaining ground in the and Europe.

"Ten years ago, this was just a plan. Today, it's a real project and in 10 years, we'll be producing tens of megawatts of power this way," said Kempton, adding that V2G will readily find applications in countries that are rapidly ramping up reliance on wind and solar energy, such as Denmark and Britain.

Huber said he will be meeting in the coming weeks in Paris with heads of European grid management companies about V2G.

"We're going to try to determine how we can work together on this. It's a technology that is very good at meeting a need we have, and there's growing interest among auto companies to develop V2G vehicles," he added.

AC Propulsion of California has designed an electric drive system for V2G, and car manufacturers including Renault/Nissan, Mitsubishi and BMW are producing all-electric vehicles with an eye on the V2G market.


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Feb 19, 2010
A couple notes here -- I would be really PISSED off if i left my car plugged up thinking it was charging to go on a rather long trip and get in and find out that had very little battery left ---
but I would be very glad to receive $60 for a couple hours of charge more than making up for the gas substitute...

It has got to be cheaper for electric companies to pull from other electic companies than from electric cars -- right the economics of this just seem wrong. at $0.06 per Kwh this is the equivalent of taking 1000 Kwh from a car battery WOW -- really -- how much power are they storing in there

Feb 19, 2010
The biggest problem is timing. Peak power occurs in the late afternoon and early evening. Cars will be at work, on the road or at home in need of charging.

Feb 19, 2010
$60/hour is more than a few dollars my friend -- 1 hour a day 20 days a month(minimal amount of weekdays in a month) = $1200 / month ....
At that type of return its makes sense to buy 4 batteries and tell the company to use them whenever necessary.

In short this makes no economic sense at all

Feb 19, 2010
$60/hour is more than a few dollars my friend -- 1 hour a day 20 days a month(minimal amount of weekdays in a month) = $1200 / month ....

That's illusory. The energy companies would be paying you more than you are paying them for getting energy. They'll give you much less, no doubt - otherwise they'd go bankrupt in short order (and you'll pay through your nose for new batteriies every few months).

In conjunction with solar (as it is often praised)?

When does the sun shine? During the day.Tthen you have a surplus energy production, but then is the time when you are using your car - so you're not hooked up to the grid.

When do you charge your car? During the night when there is no surplus production and when the power companies would like to withdraw energy.

Unless we all start working at night and sleeping during the day this makes no sense.


Feb 19, 2010
Another article here yesterday about the same concept.
I'll repeat my comment that this won't happen until the cost for the power you draw from the grid is at least 3X what the electricco pays you for power returned to the grid.

Feb 20, 2010
^ I'm all for the 5%, but unfortunately the electric companies are in that 5% as well. They are NOT going to pay more per kWh from a dubiously certain source (read: the public) when they can simply fire up their cheap coal plants, or push the reactors a little harder for the afternoon/evening. Either that or they'll get into the business of making the batteries. Either way, you're not going to be saving money.

Feb 20, 2010
it's maybe a good idea for the wrong reasons. It does make economic sense to experiment and develop electric to grid infrastructure and standards. These would be needed in a new economy under most alternative energy strategies. By using the car as a first adopter the standardization and implementation of electric to grid technologies is faster. Even if no one ever uses the cars to charge the grid, it could help the environment by establishing a method for charging the grid via other local renewable sources. How much would that be worth to the national economy and how much or little does it cost to build the feature into the car. Maybe this ability is already built into the car and cost the car manufacturer and car consumer zero extra dollars?

Feb 21, 2010
Can it be done? Certainly. Should it be done? Probably. Will it be done? Only if electricity generation is decoupled from fossil fuels. As an added bonus, the same tech could be adapted for bicycles, and even for pedestrian travel.
You will note, however, that there are no specific figures listed in the article. Don't forget the cost of those meter/ID units. Don't forget the cost of the batteries/storage devices(and their relative efficiencies). And until someone develops a technology for MASSIVE offline electricity storage, the whole scheme smacks of pollyannaish optimism. It would be great, though- wouldn't it?

Feb 21, 2010
the ongoing saga of non-parity grid involvement.

no wonder we're still in the stone age.

try speaking into his good ear.

jr

Feb 21, 2010
95% of people rubbish technology, but 5% will make it work for them and take a profit.

Oh I'm certain that someone will make a profit - just not the consumer. It will be a cash cow for the battery industry, for sure. Think of all those huge battery packs wearing out all the time.

Additionally we have all the transmission losses from shunting energy back and forth accross the grid (from producer to storage to end user)

I'd rather see energy storage units set up next to alternative energy producers (off shore wind parks with simple caverns that either hold compressed air or simply pump out seawater and reflood when needed, solar cell array with compressed air storage, solar thermal power plants with molten salt heat storage, ... )

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