Nat'l Renewable Energy Lab Moves Ahead on Connecting EVs to the Grid

Nat'l Renewable Energy Lab Moves Ahead on Connecting EVs to the Grid

Researchers at U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have released a report to help car designers and engineers optimize the way electric vehicles and hybrids connect to utility grids.

The technical report provides an interim test plan for evaluating vehicle-to-grid (V2G) applications for utility interconnection, helping to pave the way for wider use of EVs and plug-in hybrids.

"This report offers the first nationally available set of test procedures for V2G applications," said NREL Director of Energy Systems Integration Ben Kroposki in the release. "Unleashing the potential of electric vehicles to optimize grid performance will be instrumental as the world moves to a smart grid with much higher use of renewables, energy storage and load control."

The NREL report documents a series of tests developed to evaluate various V2G-capable electric and hybrid electric vehicles to determine their ability to store and provide power to the utility grid while complying with IEEE standards.

V2G technology holds the promise for electric car batteries to be used as energy storage for the grid, providing ways for utilities to stabilize grid performance. The power potential of the batteries allows utilities to potentially reduce charging rates for EV owners or help facilitate demand response services.

Pike Research recently predicted that by 2017, nearly 100,000 vehicles will be enabled with V2G technology. Though research director and report author John Gartner noted, "V2G technologies are currently in the early pilot phase, with much work left to do before they will be ready for full commercialization. The earliest adopters will be fleet operators and large consumers of energy where vehicles have established schedules for being plugged in."

Still, according to a market analysis by GlobalData, the global V2G market will grow to $40 billion by 2020, and projects the U.S. V2G market to be the largest with $847 million in revenues in 2012.

With the recently reported battery-related fires in Chevy Volts getting media attention, EV safety is a concern. The NREL report included a general discussion on safety requirements for EVs, as well as an overview of vehicle characteristics and test equipment. 

"We developed the test procedures in this report using actual prototype vehicles equipped with advanced power electronics and advanced energy storage technologies," said Bill Kramer, acting group manager for NREL's Distributed Energy Systems Integration Group. "Once testing is expanded to a wider variety of vehicles, these procedures could become the foundation for testing standards for V2G applications."

Electric Vehicle photo provided by Shutterstock