Just like the two-way street, car innovators are focusing more than ever on the two-way plug that could revolutionize cars' relationship with the grid. The idea is to give plug-in cars the ability to feed energy back into the grid when parked. And part of the vision includes small payments to people whose vehicles become energy providers when the grid is in need of balancing during peak hours. This innovation will be particularly useful for backing up energy sources like wind and solar that can vary by time of day or weather.
Using 15 plug-in Mini E's donated by BMW, the idea is being explored by Prof. Willett Kepton of the University of Delaware. These days cars sit idle and unused for a large majority of their lives. Creating back-and-forth capabilities with the grid --
and the home -- would sharply increase the car's efficiency and role in our lives while challenging the traditional energy provider and consumer relationship.
Kempton estimates that in the high-value grid markets, an EV at a charging point with the capability to charge or discharge at 10kW can generate $2,000 or more each year. It's a very appealing proposition to go on vacation while leaving your car at home in the garage generating a paycheck for when you return. And, over a typical 5-10 year ownership period, it's enough to pay for the cost of the battery and still provide you the benefit of EV motoring at its spectacular two- to three-cents-per-mile operating cost.
In this world, the rules of car ownership change dramatically. Drivers can quit oil, provide clean energy to the grid, and get paid for it.
-- Brian Foley