REV has already bagged deals to manufacture 25 APVs in different U.S. cities and is expecting orders for more 200 APVs in 2011.
Electric vehicles have emerged as a wonderful way to combat the growing menace of global warming and carbon emissions. But now, a better solution seems to have risen promisingly on the horizon. The Ancillary Power Vehicle (APV) is an electric automobile that not only is eco-friendly, but also is capable of holding a two-way communication with the electric grid.
Why does this matter? Research from Vancouver, Canada firm Rapid Electric Vehicles (REV) shows that power outages cost North America almost $100 billion a year and the lack of energy storage is the main culprit. Here is where an APV will be invaluable. Each time an APV owner plugs the vehicle in for charging, it can electronically connect to the local power grid via computers. In a two-way action, the APV can draw power from the grid when required, but most importantly, the grid can siphon additional energy from plugged in APVs during peak usage times. At a signal from a server in the local utility, APVs instantly discharge power to the grid in the utility’s locality. “APVs will change the definition of the car and bring accessible power and storage right into densely populated areas, where consumption is high and reliability is needed most,” explains REV’s CEO Jay Giraud.
This entire exchange is possible because an APV is equipped with Vehicle to Grid technology popularly known as V2G. It all began in 1997 when Professor William Kempton at the University of Delaware envisioned the possibility of using energy from vehicles to assist power starved grids. The concept materialized in 2007 when the university demonstrated its technology by forming a consortium named the Mid-Atlantic Grid Interactive Car Consortium (MAGICC), which included electric car battery manufacturers and smart grid operators.
Kempton based his concept on the premise that 95% of the time cars remain parked. The energy that lies dormant during parking time can be utilized by the grid. Owners can also earn money by entering into an agreement with their local micro-grid, which can make use of the extra power from the cars to balance their load. According to Kempton, the plugged-in test cars in Delaware are making $5 to $10 a day.
According to a study by Texas based research firm Zpryme, the global
V2G market is expected to touch $26.6 billion by 2020, while V2G vehicle
sales compound annual growth rate from 2015 to 2020 is anticipated
to be 59%.
But how economically viable is it to get your car converted in to an APV? Kempton says that once the technology becomes commercialized, the extra cost of fitting a V2G enabled battery and charging system would total $1500. For electric utilities as well, relying on V2G might prove to be cheaper and cleaner than using the stand by diesel generators that they use today.
Car manufacturers seem to be convinced for now. In January 2010, Kempton signed the first V2G technology license with vehicle modifying firm Autoport, which will team up with electric car battery manufacturer AC Propulsion to retrofit 100 demo cars next year. If the initial run is successful, they would be commercially manufactured. Ford is already running a three year project, testing V2G software for hybrid vehicles in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy. And in December 2010, Vancouver-based Rapid Electric Vehicles (REV) delivered four, all electric APVs to the US Army Tank Automotive Research Center in Hawaii to demonstrate the “bidirectional charging capabilities” of the vehicles.
Yet, as with any new technology, skeptics abound. The feasibility of the technology continues to raise doubtful eyebrows. Critics point out that the car’s built-in internet connection that communicates with the grid could prove problematic due to poor efficiency. Chris Naughton, a Honda spokesman has pointed out that the firm is worried about the “stresses on the battery pack caused by putting it through cycles it wasn’t designed for.” But Kempton counters that tests have proved V2G, if installed correctly, does not affect battery life.
At least, Denmark appears to believe that. The country is zealously exploring V2G to store the energy generated from the numerous wind turbines that dot Denmark’s landscape. The turbines are capable of providing 40% of Denmark’s energy demands, but due to lack of energy storing mediums, only 20% is currently used.
In the U.S., President Barack Obama’s goal of putting one million electronic vehicles and plug-in hybrids on the nation’s roads by 2015 is an encouraging factor for the growth of V2G. In any case, unlike many other emerging technologies, it has been proved that V2G does work. And it not only offers the promise of a decarbonized world, but helps us use our energy more efficiently as well. Now that’s a change you can believe in.
Image Credit: Kevin Krejci under a Creative Commons license