As temperatures heat up this summer and power companies scramble to juggle supply and demand, a pilot program called i ChargeForward presents a potential solution to demand response events. The program, a partnership between BMW and PG&E, aims to prove the practicality of using managed electric vehicle (EV) charging as a grid resource.
There’s been discussion of using electric vehicles as a grid resource for more than a decade. But BMW and PG&E recently completed the first feasibility testing. And the results are encouraging. A recently released report provides proof that electric vehicles can offer reliable and flexible power as managed grid assets—which could potentially save both utilities and vehicle owners a chunk of cash.
During the study, BMW agreed to provide PG&E with 100 kW of grid resources for demand response events. They did so by delaying vehicle charging for approximately 100 BMW i3s in the San Francisco Bay Area and by, for an hour, drawing from a BMW Group 2nd life stationary battery system built from reused EV batteries.
The pilot program used an OpenADR protocol pathway for demand response communications. Olivine, an approved scheduling coordinator with California Independent System Operator (CAISO), acted as the interface between the utility and the automaker. The onboard vehicle telematics system effectively communicated grid messages to the cars.
From July 2015 to December 2016, the i ChargeForward project dispatched 209 demand response events, totaling 19,500 kilowatt-hours, the report states. They tested with day-ahead and real-time signals, modeled after existing demand resources from CAISO, to determine whether the program could eventually offer support and function on the wholesale level.
The pilot is considered a success both from an energy reduction and customer satisfaction perspective. Ninety-eight percent of participants, in fact, reported that they were satisfied with the program.
Furthermore, the study found that a high percentage of EV drivers plugged in their vehicles as soon as they got home, but delayed actual charging until later in the evening when rates declined. This indicated that the vehicles have more flexibility as a grid resource than previously expected.
Since the program used regular production vehicles, owned by real households, and was able to successfully sending signals by way of the cars’ standard telematics system, BMW feels that its vehicles are ready to serve as a valuable grid resource.
What are your thoughts? Do you think that consumers will embrace this concept? Will electric vehicle charging prove a viable resource for grid stability?