Your electric car as a power station.
The electric vehicle revolution will do more than reduce carbon emissions. Vehicle-to-grid technology (V2G), can give you ultimate control over your energy, and even make you money. Fancy getting your own mini power station? Then read on.
What’s ‘vehicle to grid’ technology?
‘Vehicle to grid’ technology enables energy stored in electric vehicles to be fed back into the national electricity network (or 'grid') to help supply energy at times of peak demand. It’s just one technological advancement in a slew of new initiatives like ‘smart charging’ and ‘demand side response’ that are aimed at changing the way individuals, and businesses, use energy in the future. In short: the electric car revolution is tied into a whole new way of consuming energy1.
How does this vehicle-to-grid technology benefit me?
We’re hurtling towards a place where ‘two-way’ electric car chargers can enable homeowners with electric cars to sell their energy back to the national network. It’s a smart idea when you consider that over 90% of cars are parked at any one time2 – which is a lot of energy just sitting there doing nothing. This technology will give you the opportunity to manage your energy your way, and potentially become energy self-sufficient, reducing everyone's reliance on energy companies. Get solar panels fitted, then adopt vehicle to grid technology and your home could become a private mini-power station!
What else can vehicle-to-grid technology do?
This game-changing tech is about far more than potentially making EV owners money3, it also plays an important part in helping to ‘balance’ the national electricity network. And it feeds into a national initiative called demand side response (DSR): a programme that aims to rebalance our energy needs around the country by changing how we produce, supply and use energy.
DSR works on all levels. On an individual scale, smart meters are being rolled out to help homeowners control and reduce their energy use. While on a macro level, businesses and large public sector organisations, are being encouraged to save energy costs, reduce carbon footprints and adopt new ways to use lights, appliances, air-conditioning, and fridges etc. As part of this initiative, they're also being empowered to:
- Increase their onsite generation of renewables like wind and solar PV
- Adjust the times they use energy (in order to help national network balance energy demand)
- And even feed excess energy back to the network.
What do you mean by ‘balancing the grid’?
We take it for granted that if we flick a switch, our lights will come on. Or our oven will heat up. But the odds are that when we do this, millions of others will be doing the same. ‘Balancing the grid’ is about making sure there’s enough electricity on the network when we all need it, so the country doesn’t ‘blackout’, but not so much that we experience ‘surges’. These occur when excess energy surges into our homes, potentially damaging our equipment or causing electrical fires.
And it’s not just about satisfying our demand for energy. Getting renewable energy onto the network, while maintaining this ‘balance’ makes for a challenging future. Think about how fickle our weather is and it’s easy to understand how tricky it is to predict how much wind power, for example, might be generated at any one time. Why is this so important? Well, a network that’s flush with renewable energy mean lower carbon emissions which, in turn, helps build a cleaner, greener country for us all.
As electric cars become ever more popular, and more and more people adopt cheaper off-peak energy tariffs allowing them to charge their cars overnight, we could see nighttimes becoming the new ‘peak demand’ for energy. That’s where another new initiative called ‘smart charging’ will come into its own...
What’s ‘smart charging’?
Smart charging is the intelligent charging of electric cars4. It’s essentially where energy suppliers incentivise car owners to opt into a programme that allows the supplier to curtail charging when energy demand is particularly high.
A piece of tech is fitted to the diagnostic port of your electric car, which communicates with your supplier, letting them know whether charging could be cut short at times of high demand. Owners also use an app on their mobiles which will tell the supplier things like; what times and days of the week you need your car to be fully charged by, and whether there are days that you’d like to opt out of the intelligent charging programme altogether – if you’re planning a long journey to visit the in-laws, for instance.
Smart charging is very much based on mutual benefits. Electric car owners enjoy monetary rewards from the suppliers, along with the feel-good factor that they’re helping to ‘balance the grid’ in order to make way for more renewables. Suppliers, on the other hand, are better able to serve everyone when demand is high. And the knock-on effect is that there will eventually be fewer power plants needed, particularly back-up stations that sell dirtier energy at higher prices to suppliers who can’t fulfil demand without them.
This all means…
With electric cars and the raft of innovative technology being developed to realise their potential as energy storage systems, the future is bursting with possibility. Cleaner air, smarter homes, energy self-sufficiency. It’s seriously exciting stuff.
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