Distributed Energy

Mobile Microgrids

EV charging infrastructure sparks demand response collaboration.

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I was reminded recently that, as contemporaries, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison worked in tandem on the development of motor-driven vehicles and energy distribution. Today, in a stroke of synchronicity, those industries have an opportunity to collaborate once again.

In 2018, US EV sales totaled 361,307 units, up 81% over 2017, according to an industry analysis from Inside EVs. And a recent report by the World Economic Forum indicates that by 2040, more than half of new cars sold in the word will be EVs, with 70% of the market share in Europe, and over 50% in China. The momentum of the EV market presents a variety of challenges and opportunities.

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With sales surging, powering these vehicles as well as the plants that fabricate them is at the forefront of utility discussions. As the focus shifts to EV infrastructure, automakers and utilities are working hand in hand once again—this time to develop strategies for charging EVs that don’t overload the power grid during peak demand periods.

How will electrifying the transportation system impact the power industry? The added income from selling energy to charge vehicles is likely to increase profits for energy providers. Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that the revenue stream from replacing all 236 million gas-powered cars in the US with EVs may be about $115 billion.

EVs can also be employed as grid assets when managed to charge and discharge during energy demand peaks and valleys. In this application, especially in response to remote grid operator signals, they may support and stabilize the grid, serving as a load balancer.

Honda and Southern California Edison have developed a programHonda SmartCharge, that does just that. The program prompts owners to charge electric vehicles when electricity prices are low using the vehicle’s built-in communication system and a software platform developed by eMotorWerks.

Another example of automotive and energy sector collaboration can be found in BMW’s iChargeForward Project, a charge-scheduling program that the company is currently testing with Pacific Gas and Electric in the Bay Area. According to a report by GreenTech Media, “The BMW iChargeForward Project is one of the best examples to date of a utility and an automaker working together to develop new technologies and use cases for electric vehicles (EVs) and their batteries.”

What are your impressions? Do you see mobile microgrids as a possible demand response solution? DE_bug_web

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  1. We always hear about how great EV’s are but we never see comparable comparisons between the two. Does a gas fired electric plant, plus all the energy needed to get the power to the car, plus the build cost of the car equal the same cost of a petroleum powered car? And what is the GREEN difference?

  2. Good question Paul. Of course, comparing today’s EV to today’s straight up combustion engine (not even considering hybrid) would be much like trying to compare the first combustion engine to today’s ‘efficient’ engines – really no comparison. I suspect the GREEN difference then in the comparison you would like to see would be negligible. However, that also assumes ‘gas fired electricity plants’ which again is unlikely the key source of our electricity 100 years out. What if ‘the GREEN difference’ was more of a question of resource management? What if instead of getting hung up on which technology pollutes more we considered which technology gives humanity the next 100, 1,000, 10,000 years? I wonder if the pollution component would resolve itself if our focus was resource management?

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