A recent analysis by Bloomberg suggests electric vehicles could account for half of all new cars sold by 2040. An increase in electric-vehicle adoption could mean more opportunities for these cars to help the power system.
Here are five ways electric vehicles can serve as a grid resource:
EV batteries could regulate fluctuations caused by disparities in electricity generation and demand.
These batteries can provide power when demand exceeds supply or absorb excess electricity when it surpasses demand. Vehicle-to-grid technology allows EVs to charge and discharge electricity to and from the grid and already has been commercialized in Denmark by Nuvve.
The storage capability of EVs makes more renewable energy available to the grid. Energy provided by renewable sources could be absorbed by the batteries and stored for later use.
The reserved electricity could be used to operate the vehicle or sold back to the grid and help balance supply and demand.
Because EV batteries can balance the load on the grid, they also could reduce the amount of money utilities spend on infrastructure upgrades to offset wear and tear. Such improvements to the electric system are expensive.
One transformer alone can cost millions of dollars, depending on the size and manufacturer. Using EV batteries to relieve pressure on the grid may reduce costs for ratepayers.
Many major power outages are at least partly attributed to problems related to maintaining voltage level on the grid. EV batteries can generate the power necessary for voltage support.
These cars already are located where power is needed most, making them an especially useful resource. Power flows would be balanced and less electricity would be wasted.
EVs allow for flexibility during peak demand times as a demand-response resource. For instance, BMW has conducted a smart-charging pilot program with Pacific Gas and Electric to determine how to best incentivize drivers to charge vehicles during low demand periods on the grid with a mobile application.
As demonstrated by this list, EVs are not just an environmentally friendly mode of transportation. These cars also can help the electric grid meet supply and demand and boost the power system’s flexibility.
Constance Douris manages the energy portfolio as vice president of the Lexington Institute, a nonprofit public policy think tank based in Arlington, VA.