Electric cars and the Power Grid: smart solutions needed

As the number of electric vehicles in the world rises slowly but incessantly, utilities begin to get nervous about the effects on national electricity grids. New projections show a rise to 3 million electric cars worldwide by 2017. All that batteries can serve as an emergency power supply, as we will see further on in this post. But the growing number of electric cars can also put a serious strain on local grids: when owners want to charge their cars all at the same time. This potential problem is causing a wave of innovations. In the USA, IBM is working with car manufacturers (like Honda) on a Smart Grid solution for the charging process. The car communicates with the Smart Grid ‘in the cloud’ to find an appropiate time for charging. Within seconds a choice is made that fits both the grid, and the user of the car.
Another innovative path is developing in Japan, where a complete rethinking of the national electricity supply is underway in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. People feel uncertain about the stability of the Grid. As the website Green Car Congress states, manufacturers like Toyota and Nissan want to answer that anxiety. They are developing new systems that can supply electricity to households from the batteries of electric cars. These Vehicle-to-Home solutions use the charging interface. Of course, an intelligent system is needed to control the process (a Home Energy Management System, a sort of mini Smart Grid). In case of an emergency (like an earthquake) electric cars could be used as a less polluting alternative to the well-known diesel generator. A new Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid with full batteries and a full tank of gasoline should be able to provide a typical Japanese household with electricity for four days.

 Picture by Colonnade (on Flickr)


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