Plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) may provide far more value to their owners than just reducing gasoline costs and greenhouse gas emissions. The significant energy and power capacities of the PEV system can be utilized to provide power during a blackout, curb commercial electricity ratepayer demand charges, power offboard equipment at work sites, and help grid operators balance supply with demand. Each of the above uses requires, or is strengthened by, PEVs equipped with bidirectional capability – meaning the vehicle can both absorb electricity from the grid and return it. Most PEVs available today, however, lack this capability.
This is because automakers don’t yet see a market for vehicle-to-grid integration, and they’re concerned that the use of vehicle batteries for purposes outside of motive power may shorten the batteries’ lives. Test pilots in major PEV markets are answering some of these concerns, as well as developing the processes by which a PEV’s bidirectional potential may be harnessed. The center of action is in Japan.
In Japan, the Nissan LEAF, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV are all sold with bidirectional capability as an option. Each model can connect to an offboard inverter through the vehicle’s direct current (DC) charging port to enable a reverse power flow. The offboard equipment only enables the PEV to supply power back to an owner’s home in the case of an outage, not back to the grid under normal circumstances. Its purchase is subsidized by the Japanese government.
Though the system’s use is limited to emergency outage situations, this relatively early adoption of the technology in comparison to other large PEV markets is providing a launch point for testing other PEV power possibilities. Nissan has already begun testing a fleet of LEAFs in curtailing commercial demand charges at one of the company’s facilities through the LEAF to Home system. Similarly, the LEAF to Home system is also undergoing tests in grid balancing services. A number of similar tests are underway in the United States and Europe as well; however, no vehicles have yet been made available to the mass market with bidirectional capability as they have been in Japan.
Two Ways Are Best
To date, using PEVs in grid balancing services represents the most interesting case from a revenue-generating perspective. Though a PEV does not necessarily need to be bidirectional to service the grid, the revenue potential of a bidirectional PEV in grid services is significantly higher in comparison to that of a unidirectional PEV. Tests and simulations in the United States indicate that the revenue potential of one bidirectional PEV can average around $5 per day of grid service.
This revenue potential provides a significant new incentive for PEV adoption. However, it’s unlikely such a scenario will emerge unless energy companies and utilities pave the way for PEVs in grid services and automakers outside Japan offer bidirectional PEVs. Please join Navigant Research’s webinar, Electric Vehicles and the Grid, at 2 p.m. EST on February 10 as we examine in detail the market drivers and challenges of using PEVs in grid services. Click here to register.
Tags: Clean Transportation, Conferences & Events, Electric Vehicles, Transportation Efficiencies, Vehicle to Grid
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