Is vehicle-to-grid charging the next big thing?
How to turn your car into a mini power station
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I was lucky enough to attend Shell’s Make The Future Live festival in London this summer, a celebration of alternative fuels and futuristic eco-tech. As well as an engaging Intelligence Squared podcast hosted by TV’s Alexander Armstrong, the festival featured various exhibits demonstrating the future of energy and mobility. And one thing that really interested me was something I’d never really heard of – vehicle-to-grid energy transfer.
With the ever-increasing number of electric cars on the road, the pressure is on to make their electricity source and battery production even cleaner.
Courtesy of Newmotion
One way we can begin to offset this is vehicle-to-grid technology – battery-powered vehicles can be connected to the main power supply to help power your local area during peak times. Energy can be stored by your car’s battery and drawn out when there’s higher demand, meaning your car effectively becomes a mini power station.
Sounds pretty good, right?
At any given time, around 90% of all cars are parked up, and as electric cars become the norm, there will be a lot of spare energy just sitting there. Companies such as NewMotion, which was recently bought by Shell, are pioneering vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology to use that spare energy by taking charge out of your car during peak times to help balance the grid.
Not only can this help to reduce the amount of net energy needed but you could also be paid for the power that you supply back to the grid.
It all seems like a bit of a win-win then – car owners get paid and feel good for ‘balancing the grid’, power suppliers have less stress put upon them, and it’s a great way to store renewable energy. But while earning a bit of extra pocket money and helping the environment is obviously very appealing, there are some considerations.
Courtesy of Newmotion
Chris D’Souza, Program Lead of eMobility Technology, of the New Energies division at Shell, helped me understand more about how this technology can also benefit the health of your car battery. “A vehicle battery has its own management system – a computer that's there to manage the charge and extend the life of the battery,” he explained. “However, charging the battery to full and then discharging to zero has the potential to damage it, reducing its capacity and lifetime. Active management of the charge of the battery can help extend its useful lifetime.”
So, when can we start using V2G?
Well, it’s actually already here. Some vehicles already allow V2G technology and more are on the horizon. NewMotion has already begun successfully rolling out the technology in the Netherlands and plan to keep spreading vehicle-to-grid across Europe. With more and more widespread use of sustainable energy sources, V2G will help to build a cleaner, more sustainable future.