Jeffrey Ball at the WSJ’s Environmental Capital blog describes Xcel Energy’s first steps in bringing Vehicle-to-grid power into its SmartGridCity effort in Boulder, Colorado:
So far, it’s pretty small potatoes, involving exactly one car and one plug. But boosters say it has the potential to revolutionize – and revitalize — our aging power grid.
Here’s what’s happened so far: Xcel Energy, Inc. spent $30,000 to convert a Ford Escape hybrid into a plug-in electric car. The utility gave the SUV to the chancellor at the University of Colorado, whose residence is a test site for Xcel’s “SmartGridCity” project, a two-year experiment in modernizing the power grid.
The chancellor’s vehicle draws power in part from the solar panels on his roof. But that’s not the exciting part. The car also sends stored power from its battery back to the grid, thanks to a small wind-turbine inverter the Xcel engineers grafted onto the SUV.
This is the first commercial test of what’s known as vehicle-to-grid, or V2G, technology. Within a few months, Xcel will add three Toyota Priuses from Boulder County’s government fleet to the V2G experiment.
The core value opportunity that V2G is chasing:
According to Xcel, the average hybrid driver pulls into his garage at night with his battery still two-thirds full. That means it contains about 8 kilowatt hours of stored energy, enough to power eight homes for an hour. Xcel engineers figure they can draw down this power during peak usage – say at 5 p.m. on a sticky summer day. Then they can reverse course and have the grid send power back into the car during the low-demand hours in the middle of the night, so the battery is fully juiced for the driver’s morning commute.
What next? Xcel is looking for funding:
So far, Xcel has funded this project on its own. It’s looking now for help from the federal government, with the goal of adding 500 more cars to the V2G test over the next several years. But the utility may have to get in line. This isn’t the only car-of-the-future looking for a handout.
Actually, I wouldn’t much mind funding basic research into cars-of-the-future. On the other hand, funding carmakers-stuck-in-the-past doesn’t seem like such a deal.