4 Ways Electric Cars Can Support & Benefit The Grid


Some can be counter-intuitive

When electric vehicles first began arriving on our roads, there were a lot of questions about how their mass adoption might affect the electrical grid. Despite predictions of massive power failures and other disasters, grids have, so far, held up quite well. In fact, it’s now thought that EVs will bring improvements to systems that see more energy being supplied by renewable, sometimes inconsistent, sources.

Read Also: 18-Month, Real-World Trial Proves Electric Vehicles Can Stabilize The Grid

That’s great news, considering EVs are still a relatively small proportion of automotive traffic. As the electric revolution progresses and our cars increasingly lean on the grid for nourishment, the grid may also rely on our cars. Here are some of the ways the electrical grid and electric vehicles should dance together like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers.


Tesla Powerpack to Enable Large Scale Sustainable Energy to South Australia

1. Battery development for electric cars has led to cheaper, better energy storage for the grid.

Electric vehicles have provided a great motivation for investment in battery development. This has, in turn, led to batteries which have greatly improved energy density, and with the volumes being produced for vehicles heavily increased, the price of cells has plummeted, making them a more attractive option for grid-level energy storage.

It’s no surprise, then, that the batteries thought to have both the best energy density and lowest cell price that have arisen from the tie up between Tesla and Panasonic, and are involved in some of these early grid storage projects. A well-known example of this is the 52 MWh installation on Kauai, Hawaii, which was installed to support a 13 MW solar farm.


Nissan LEAFs charge at UK V2G installation

Nissan LEAFs and e-NV200 at V2G station in the UK

2. Electric vehicles can offer grid frequency regulation services.

Using Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) technology, electric vehicles can help the grid maintain a proper frequency. This will become especially helpful as more energy sources are based on intermittent renewable sources such as solar and wind. When the energy being supplied to the grid suddenly decreases, then smart EVs that happen to be plugged in at the time can be called upon to loan some of their stored energy to make up the shortfall, and help keep the frequency where it needs to be.

Typically, these lapses are brief, so don’t worry about getting in your car to go to work and finding the power company has “stolen” all the energy in your battery. Cars will be able to limit the amount of energy they lend, which would also prevent that scenario. A paper outlining how this will work was published by the Technical Universtity of Denmark.


Nissan LEAF to Home

3. EVs can stand in for the grid if it fails.

During storms, or other events, it’s not unusual for utility-supplied power to go down. An EV can, with the proper safeguards installed, power a home when the grid fails. This is something that Nissan in particular has spent time developing, calling it LEAF-to-home.  It is important to note that this and similar systems isolate the structure they are supplying with energy from the outside world. This is to prevent power lines, which workers would expect to be dead, from carrying current and creating a dangerous situation.

Of course, even if not hooked up directly to your home, EV owners can use the charge in their cars to supply power to some devices directly.


4. Create increased demand for electricity

This one might seem a little odd a first blush, but the fact is that utility companies need customers for their generated energy. According to Bloomberg, demand has been flat for the past decade or so, due to the advent of LED lighting and more efficient appliances. As the number of electric vehicles grows, so will the need for energy from the grid. This provides income for utility operators, who can then afford to pay their expenses and invest in infrastructure.


There may well be other ways in which electric vehicles and the power grid may support each other, especially through smart metering, V2G, and other technologies. If there’s one that you feel we missed that should be included, let us know in Comments.

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28 Comments on "4 Ways Electric Cars Can Support & Benefit The Grid"

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Goes with #4 really, PEVs can L1/L2 charge primarily at night/off peak and take stress of the grid during daytime /peak AND take advantage of cheap power at night.


Fun facts regarding #4…

EPEX spot prices per MW/h…

00:00 -2,00
01:00 -12,12
02:00 -9,63
03:00 -9,61
04:00 -9,25
05:00 -9,64
06:00 -14,42
07:00 -27,18
08:00 -19,95
09:00 -24,22
10:00 -29,99
11:00 0 (Yeah that’s funny, price spike of 0,00 €/MWh)
12:00 -0,05
13:00 -18,22
14:00 -9,79
15:00 -22,95
16:00 4,74 (What’s up… Pay for electricity???)
17:00 23,11
18:00 40,38
so, basically it would have been good to have more demand within those 16 hours… before prices went back to “normal”…


€ per MWh

Point 3 applies ti ice too. You can use a gasser as a generator as well as you can an ev.

Now how do you connect your ICE car to you house? Through the socket beside the trailer hook, or clamps on the12V battery? Or do you buy rollers to place your car on top of, and then mechanically connect them to a generator? It could work if you have a fast responding cruise control and set it to a speed that gives you the correct frequency, but it wont be vey handy and safe, and it certainly wont be cheap.

A BEV on the other hand just requires an inverter connected to the fast charging port.

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

OT…. “a deadly crash involving a self-driving Uber vehicle early Monday morning.”


Yes, that is horrible and tragic.

I’d like to know why the human backup driver wasn’t able to prevent the accident. Were they not alert enough, or did it happen so quickly that a regular car would have hit her also.

I’d also like to know how many miles the autonomous cars in that fleet have driven and what the statistical expectation is of a fatal pedestrian accident with human drivers. Meaning if human driven cars would kill somebody every X miles driven on average, was this fleet above or below that average.

The sad part is that cars driven by humans kill people today, and society is OK with that because the percentage is low. We don’t outlaw cars because cars kill. My hope is that someday the cars will have enough smarts that the kill rate will go to zero, or at least do a divide by 1000.

Not a good apples to apples comparison, but some data, not to be misinterpreted.

From the NY Times article:

In 2016, 37,461 people died in traffic-related accidents in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That amounts to 1.18 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2016.

Waymo, which has been testing autonomous vehicles on public roads since 2009 when it was Google’s self-driving car project, has said its cars have driven more than 5 million miles while Uber’s cars have covered 3 million miles.

Meaning, it looks like the self driving cars got their 1 fatality in only ~10 million miles of driving as opposed to the national average of 100 million miles.

But this is not apples to apples as most of driverless driving is short trips in a city and not on a freeway where the miles rack up.

So the jury is still out.

In 2015 5743 pedestrian were killed by vehicles about 15 a day. This is terrible that someone died but as autonomous continues to improve in a short time it will be available on all vehicles.

Almost positive they use Lidar.
Most fools here say thats the best or only tech that works

I’m not convinced of V2G, which covers 2 and 3. I doubt there will be many who opt to take range away from their cars for the benefit of the grid without significant payment. It might be cheaper just to get new generators.

But grid-controlled-demand makes a lot of sense. It’ll be cheaper for the EV driver to get extra juice which means far wider participation. All that extra renewable energy that H and FCEV advocates think will be given away for free (and ~80% wasted for FCEV) will not materialize when grid operators can sell it for smaller profit to charge BEVs.

In Denmark and Germany wind power production can be so high that wind generators are stopped, since the price becomes too low.
The can not sell the electricity at a profit.
Then, hydrogen production may be a solutions for å farmers for example. They can use or sell the hydrogen.
The level of compression is where the cost is.
Hydrogen generators have falle in price.

Of course in that case it would be far more efficient to have colocated battery packs to efficiently store the excess electrical energy for the peak usage times during the day when it is really needed and the wind company could get a decent price for it..

And, unlike the supposed H2 generation systems, there are no additional infrastructure needs (or refrigeration systems or tanker trucks or piping) since the wires are already there.

No, batteries are hugely more expensive than hydrogen tanks for storing a lot of energy.

Hydrogen tanks are not cheap, and they must be inspected and replaced on a strict schedule. Add the cost of all the energy lost, compared to 96-98% efficient Li-ion batteries. At the end of the day I think we will see batteries as the clear winner.


No hydrogen storage is very expensive compared to batteries, not only do you need tanks, but also electrolysers. Remember teh overproduction only lasts for a few hours so this is only about storing energy for a few hours so the real cost is in the hydrogen production plant, not the storage.

Yeah, LH2 tanks are dirt cheap. ROFL.
And so are those fuel cells. LMAO.

Long before those are cheap enough to be economic, batteries will have taken over.

The problem with that H2 production idea is that this happens only a few times a year, and only for a few hours each time. Maybe 20 days of 5 hours. Spendig lets say 10M USD on a H2 production plant that will only run 100 hours a year will never be economically sustainable. You could add batteries so that they could suck up more energy during the few hours of zero price and then the H2 could run on batteries for longer time. You could then half the size of plant to 5M USD and run it 200 hours a year, but that also destroys the point of the idea.

And finally you could end up that someone else installs a battery and sucks up all that free and sells it with lower installation cost and higher margin.

Or they might upgrade the power lines from that area to the adjacent area so they can get rid of the energy.

Not at all. If we want to come close to 100% renewable energy we will need to install a huge overcapacity of generators to be able to cover the peaks. This overcapacity will sit idle for most of the year which of course is a waste of money. Instead they could be used for creating hydrogen.

Note that hydrogen is useful for far more than just driving cars. For example it can be used for producing ammonia which is useful for making fertilizer for farming. Hydrogen can also replace coal in the steelmaking process which would give us CO2-neutral steel, perfect for lowering the well-to-wheels equation for EVs.

Of course, once we produce a ton of green hydrogen we might as well drive cars on it…

We have more than 100% renewable electricity here in Norway. We have some overcapacity and keep installing more generating capacity at the existing hydropower dams because it is economically good. They are not running idle, they are shut down when not needed and water is saved for when there is demand and prices are higher. Also we ramp down production when prices are low and import from Netherland and Denmark, and soon UK and Germany. Any renewable overcapacity won’t sit idle. With higher capacity power lines it can be transferred to other areas, or it can be stored in batteries or pumped hydro power storage. Or as suggested in this article you are commenting, it can be used to charge cars. Parking areas can be installed with 1000 charging sockets and 1000 cars with 5 kW chargers can suck up 5000kW of this overproduction energy. Over 3 hours this will total 15 000 kWh and with 1,5kWh per km the cars can drive a total of 10 000 km, replacing 5 000 liters of diesel. With your hydrogen solution the installation cost for 5 000 kW electrolysis and storage would be astronomically more expensive, probably between 100 times and 10… Read more »
M3 VIN! - Niro/Leaf TBD

How about V2H though? this is essentially what the powerwall is and folk (myself included) installed a 13KwH battery for $10,000 for shoulder time support and emergency backup. We use about 5kwh in the evening before the super off peak hours.

Our EVs could easily stand in for that duty that’s essentially cruising speeds for the battery for 20 miles a day (5 kwh). That’s not going to strain the car battery or deep cycle our 60kwh car battery.

I do not think V2G would be a good way to do peak shaving on a daily basis, but it might do good as backup. Having diesel or natural gas generators for hot standby is expensive both in capital needs and in maintenance.

In stead of installing an maintaining a 1500kW generator it might be cheaper to install one hundred 15kW V2G points offering charge at a low rate with the option of pulling power back for a short time in an emergency. If this happens only a few times a year and customer is payed back at a high rate for the power consumed it could be a good choice. Remember that you could still pick up your car with more range than if you left it during work or overnight with no charging.

And if the utility sells with a slight margin the system might pay itself down.

Put some cases of Pepsi in the trunk and look for potentially violent situations, which within you can hand out cans of the wonderful beverage, to defuse the crisis.

Other than the slight case that may be made for cheaper batteries (I’d give the main cause of the price decrease to the huge popularity of personal portable devices), utilities don’t agree with the other reasons. This article should have been labeled an editorial since it is just what the author thinks it is, which is fine – but it doesn’t have anything more behind it. As far as V2G goes, Utilities just aren’t interested in it since a company would have to be desperate to need it. The only way EV buyers would be convinced of the ‘need’ for it is to basically be swindled into it. Won’t work with me, since I fully realize it triples the losses of the car’s charging system. But then they’ll have no shortage of ‘takers’. Example: How many people sign up for ‘alternative – non -utility vendors’ to supply their electric and natural gas needs, who turn out – far from saving them money – actually end up charging much more than the plain old utility’s rates. As long as they convince the customer that they are ‘saving them money’ they’ve got them hooked, plus the ‘inertia’ of keeping a customer once… Read more »

A typical EV driven about 10,000 miles per year uses the same energy as four 100 watt light bulbs left on all year.

How can that possibly threaten the grid? Water heaters use far more electricity. And electric furnaces use even more. There are lots of both.

wow. I had never thought of it in that terms.
However, the issue with the grid is NOT the total amount of electricity used, but the total amount of electricity used during the wrong time.

Study after study has shown that America (and I would hope Europe) have enough electricity and grid support to convert our entire tranportation system to electricity.
BUT, that assumed that it was 100% in the off-peak time.
In fact, once 10% was in peak time, it meant that major portions of the north west grid would have to be built, but the rest would be OK.
And as long as below 25% peak time charging, no extra utility or grid (other than above).
Once you go above 25% peaktime, all sorts of horrible things happen. Major grid and generator upgrades have to happen.
Interestingly, if less than 15% peaktime, the utilities actually save major amounts of money since they are spreading their fixed costs across all time (i.e. flatten both bell and duck curves).

This is why we need to kill off Parallel hybrids, and limit series hybrids to certain cases, as well as kill off the low MPC vehicles except in certain situations.

#4 is important, but it has to be mostly increased during off-peak times. IOW, to really make this happen, we need to quit building cars with 30 MPC. Instead, make them a minimum of 150 MPC, except for special cases (i.e. mail trucks).

#5 is not just increase the demand, but absorb the excess electricity during off-peak times. IOW, the power company should be able to send a signal to our cars/batteries and say electricity is at .08/kwh, please buy it. car may decide to not do. Then a new trigger says .06/kwh, which is low enough for car to buy.

This gives good use of cheap electricity.

“Adsorb Excess Electricity”.

Apparently some people think that the utility otherwise would generate too much and throw the rest out the window. Poor choice of words, but then some people actually believe this is what is done.