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UK offers £20m for vehicle-to-grid energy storage

Promo image Nissan UK

With the future of transportation looking increasingly electric, skeptics will worry about the impact on the grid. Can we really handle so much added demand, and will it cause blackouts when we all get home from work?

Lloyd has already reported that a combination of demand response charging and "second life" EV batteries could mean electric cars actually help "kill the duck". The other aspect—which has long been talked about but is yet to materialize in the mainstream—is allowing the cars on our roads to give back their electricity when the grid finds itself short.

This so-called vehicle-to-grid would allow electric car owners to offer their vehicles as storage devices when not in use, with grid operators drawing power from stationary fleets when demand outstrips supply. Now Business Green reports that the UK government is offering £20m of funding to companies researching vehicle-to-grid technology and applications. The economic implications, if mainstreamed, could be a significant boost to electric vehicle owners’ pocket books:

Drivers also stand to benefit as they would be compensated in some form – such as via payments or free parking – for allowing their batteries to help power grid managers. StrategicFit, an energy consultancy, thinks a single electric car could earn its owner £1,000-£2,000 a year for helping the grid, depending on where it were located and how often it were plugged in.

Of course, having your car make money for you when you’re not using it is an attractive prospect. But there are a couple of things that we should probably keep in mind:

1) Any significant shift to an electrified, Transportation as a Service (TAAS) model for transportation might just mean that cars aren’t hanging around for long enough to be used by the grid. (On the other hand, it might mean they can easily are rerouted to your nearest substation when not in use.)
2) To be viable, companies will have to demonstrate that vehicle-to-grid technology doesn’t negatively impact battery life—and some recent research suggests that this may not be the case. As Green Car Congress reported back in May,at least one study has shown that the additional cycling of batteries in vehicle to grid applications can mean significant reductions in battery life.

But then, that’s what government-funded research is for. So it’s good to see the UK ponying up some resources to figure out what’s what.