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You may already be aware of the many benefits of electric vehicles (EVs): They do not produce any tailpipe pollutants or greenhouse gas emissions, they offer substantial gas savings, and they provide a step forward for U.S. energy independence. EVs also hold amazing promise in their ability to become grid-interactive energy storage banks when plugged in.

Once charged, even EVs with modest ranges still provide ample storage capacity for electricity. The Chevy Volt, with an electric range of around 35 miles, still packs a substantial capacity in storing 16 kilowatt-hours of electricity.  When an EV is plugged in at home, the office or at charging stations around the country, its battery pack is connected to the power grid. Not only do EVs present a substantial source of energy storage, they also have the ability to provide power during outages, encourage the uptake of renewables, and even provide some supplemental income to their owners.

The abilities of EVs to store and then send power to the grid is called EV2G (electric vehicles to the grid), and this technology is already being pioneered at the University of Delaware in a partnership with the utility NRG.  NRG and the University of Delaware are engineering  smart grid technology and software that will allow a utility to take control of the energy stored in an EV’s battery – which can provide additional electrical power in areas during peak times while paying EV owners for their stored electricity. Using grid-interactive software, EV owners can schedule charging times and minimum charge levels to manage trips and utility payments.  With EV2G technology, a plug-in EV can offset the cost of charging and even generate income when not in use. EV2G technology could make EV owners as much as $3,000 per year in additional income based on Federal Energy Regulatory Commission projections.

EVs can also be instrumental in the future of clean power. One of the largest concerns with renewables such as solar and wind power is that they are intermittent sources of energy; the grid still requires constant levels of power when the sun isn’t shining or the wind is not blowing. EVs plugged in to the grid on a large scale however, provide an incredible opportunity to store this intermittent power and provide it back to the grid when necessary. IBM is now testing a smartphone app in conjunction with Swiss utility EKZ that allows EV owners to charge their cars when the largest proportion of the grid’s power is made up of renewable energy, further reducing the footprint of EVs charged at these times. IBM’s software also displays electricity cost monitoring in real time, so that EV owners can choose when to schedule charging once their vehicles are plugged in. EVs also have the potential to provide power during outages and natural disasters. The recent tragic events in Japan prompted Mitsubishi to begin testing the idea of an AC-adapter that can use power provided by the i-Miev sedan’s battery pack for household appliances during blackouts.

Future innovations in smart grid and EV interactivity have the capacity to pave the way for a cleaner, greener future in far more ways than just saving gas.

Earthgarage – Greener Car. Fatter Wallet.