There’s a plethora of new innovations driving the transportation industry forward – from electric power, to LiDAR, to next-gen GPS and everything in between. While these technologies are propelling us into a new era of mobility that’s electric, the boom in electric vehicles (EVs) may strain the power grid. In fact, a recent study done in Texas by Wood Mackenzie found that simultaneous charging of just 60,000 EVs could threaten the entire state’s power grid. Based on a 100-kilowatt-hr EV battery with a five-minute charge time, demand from 60,000 cars charging at once would equate to 70 gigawatts – equal to the peak demand for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.
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The accelerated global adoption of EVs expected to happen within the next few years – 559 million will be on the road by 2040 according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance – will have a heavy impact on the electrical grid that we all rely on to power our vehicles, homes and gadgets. Global electricity demand will increase 57% by 2050, with China & India, the Middle East & Southeast Asia, increasing population, GDP growth and enhanced access to electricity leading to a doubling of demand. But what if we could turn that impact into a positive? Through vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology, otherwise known as bi-directional charging, it can make handling this increased peak demand possible.
Defining V2G technology and its impact on the grid
V2G technology describes a two-way flow of energy between the grid and an EV’s battery. Vehicles have the capacity to store excess energy via electrical charging, creating a mobile source of energy. V2G technology can transfer a vehicle’s stored energy from the high-capacity propulsion batteries back to the grid.
This bi-directional flow of power enables vehicles to provide energy back to the grid at any time during the charging process, but most conveniently during peak loads. V2G technology has the potential to enable a more balanced and efficient power grid. It will be a key in balancing the supply and demand expected to accompany the increase in electricity demand.
Incentivizing constituents to use V2G technology
For utility companies that keep the grid stable, or control electricity during brownouts, V2G technology will be a crucial technology when mass adoption of EVs start to weigh on the grid. However, in order to implement bi-directional charging, EV owners need to take initiative in conjunction with utility companies. Consumers need to ensure their vehicles and homes are equipped with the technology that enables bi-directional charging.
To ensure broad usage of V2G technology, utility companies can offer incentives or perks to EV owners if they agree to charge during off-peak hours or provide free power to tap the vehicle’s energy during times that the owner won’t need it. This will allow utility companies to better regulate the energy usage, spreading it out across geographies and time frames, alleviating the peak demands on the grid.
Furthermore, bi-directional charging can offer insight into how vehicles are truly impacting the grid. By monitoring EV charging through V2G technology, utility companies can track EV usage data, such as how often owners charge vehicles, the peak charging points in a day, the power sources that require a heavy amount of electricity, etc. After collecting data on how EV consumers operate, utility companies can then have an accurate estimate on when the grid actually needs to be alleviated, and when to best capitalize on excess energy, likely over night or during the workday.
Powering your home and office with V2G technology
Beyond grid alleviation, V2G technology allows vehicles to serve as generators, offering remote power to buildings and homeowners during outages or in times of need. This could be tapped when the power goes out in emergency situations, such as a hurricane or a snow storm. V2G allows people to be prepared if the boom in EVs does become a problem for the grid, causing regular brownouts.
Regardless of application, to fully enable V2G technology, automakers need to provide consumers with the technology that enables a smooth transition with the mass adoption of EVs.
Charging the grid, wirelessly = constant availability
In order for V2G technology to work seamlessly and offer the benefits of grid stabilization and allow vehicles to act as generators and data sources, wireless charging technology will need to be embedded not only into the vehicles themselves but also into home and urban infrastructure where the vehicles charge up. This allows vehicles to be highly available as needed.
Wireless charging based on magnetic resonance technology allows EVs, no matter the type or size, to automatically and safely charge by flexible positioning over a source pad, through materials like concrete, asphalt and ice. The wireless charging pad can be installed above the ground or flush mounted into the floor of a garage or road. Wireless power delivers the same charge speeds and efficiency levels as traditional plug-in charging methods. However, enabling bi-directional charging on wired charging systems requires costly additional hardware whereas only a small additional change is needed on a wireless system to enable this technology.
Wireless power will allow vehicles to recharge and implement V2G technology automatically, constantly allowing these incentives and alleviation to occur without the need for human intervention. With a wireless charging pad installed in a driver’s garage, for example, the EV can charge overnight automatically, creating a reservoir of stored energy. Any excess energy can then be transmitted back to the grid or to a consumer’s home, effortlessly.
The boom in EVs is right around the corner, and it will cause a strain to the power grid. In order to prepare for this shift, utility companies and automakers need to prepare to implement V2G technology – and wireless charging is here to help make this a true game changer.
***Authored by - Morris Kesler, Chief Technology Officer, WiTricity