Vehicle to Grid Tech in the Smart Garage

Image from RMI SolutionsSay you take the plunge and buy an electric vehicle, be it a neighborhood EV like the Zap Xebra or a supercar like the Tesla Roadster. You tool around all day, and you plug your car in at night to recharge. It only takes a couple hours to fully top up the batteries, though, even when they’re nearly depleted. Soon, you and your electric car can put those idle cycles to work while you sleep.

The Rocky Mountain Institute has published its first “Solutions” journal, which is available as a PDF. In it, they discuss the research conducted by RMI on vehicle-to-grid technology. Electric cars, with their built-in, onboard electricity storage devices (batteries, to you and me) can smooth out the power flow and provide emergency backup power:

The real benefit of electric vehicles is that they bring a new level of stability and control to the grid—including giving power back when it’s needed most (in blackouts or at times of peak demand). By some estimates, a battery-electric vehicle, with about 40 kilowatt-hours of usable energy, could power an entire residential block for over an hour if necessary.

During the 17 years that RMI conducted its V2G research, the grid in the U.S. became robust enough to handle this kind of power exchange. But RMI went further and imagined what they call a “smart grid” that can communicate with homeowners about, say, when electricity is in high demand and therefore more expensive.

There are also serious benefits, both economic and ecological, to getting more solar and wind power onto a smart grid — the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions alone would be significant. To see how all this plays out in the real world, keep an eye on the pilot project in Boulder, Colorado.

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