Honda Hops Aboard the Vehicle-to-Grid Train

Honda joins UDel V2G projectThe electric vehicle-to-grid (V2G) movement is picking up steam. The latest example comes from Honda, which  announced that it is participating in a major V2G demonstration project spearheaded by the University of Delaware. If the project bears fruit, which it is likely to do, it will provide yet another reason for commercial fleets to transition out of petroleum products and into electric vehicles: it will give them an opportunity to make money.

We’ve already noted a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study showing that conversion from diesel to electric trucks could save fleet owners a substantial amount of money, once the potential for V2G earnings is factored in. Now let’s see what UDel and Honda are up to.

Vehicle-to-Grid on the upswing

The idea behind V2G is fairly simple. We are entering an era in which millions of cars and trucks will be storing huge amounts of electrical energy in large, powerful batteries.

Depending on the owner’s usage patterns, a big chunk of that stored energy sits idle for a long periods of time. If vehicle owners could sell some of that unused energy to a local utility, that would help offset the cost of EV ownership.

As the price of EVs continues to drop, EV ownership will become an even more attractive investment opportunity, rather than simply a means of transportation.

The utility stands to benefit by gaining the ability to draw in extra energy to offset peak demand, without the need to build new “peaking plants.”

Aside from the financial incentives for EV owners and utilities, there is also a potential environmental benefit. An increasing number of electric vehicle (EV) owners have access to renewable energy for charging their batteries at homes and workplaces, so they are contributing more clean energy to the grid when they participate in a V2G program.

The UDel V2G Project

The UDel V2G demonstration project got underway last February in partnership with energy giant NRG Energy Inc. If NRG rings a sustainable energy bell, you might be thinking of the company’s splashy solar power project with the Washington D.C. football franchise and its $2.6 billion distributed solar program with Bank of America and the Department of Energy, so UDel has a heavy hitter on its side for V2G.

Planning for the project goes back as far as 1997, culminating with the hookup of 15 vehicles provided by BMW AG. The cooperation of local grid operator PJM also played a key role, as the company modified its rules to adapt to energy storage technologies, enabling it to purchase energy from the V2G project.

As things stand now, a centralized server has solved the problem of aggregating and controlling the 15 batteries, but one bump to smooth out is the process of certifying and registering charging stations as power-generating stations that contribute to the local energy market, just like any other power plant. NRG has played a key role in managing that end of the initiative.

As noted above, PJM modified its rules in that regard for the UDel project, and a recent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission decision on energy storage devices should help smooth the process for V2G adoption nationwide.

Honda Meets V2G

With last week’s announcement by Honda, the project has taken another jump forward. The manufacturer is providing a V2G-ready Accord Plug-In hybrid for the UDel project, which should help demonstrate that manufacturers stand to benefit by ensuring that their technology is compatible with V2G systems, requiring little if any modification by consumers.

To some extent that trend is already well under way, at least when it comes to incorporating EV batteries into individual homes, properties and microgrids.

Back in 2011, for example, Nissan announced that it was introducing a two-way charging system that would enable leaf owner to use their Nissan Leaf EV battery as a back-up power source for their home in case of grid outages.

A more comprehensive approach is illustrated by Ford, which has developed the MyEnergi Lifestyle package to enable its EV owners to power their home appliances with excess energy from their car battery as a matter of routine.

V2G initiatives are also proliferating at other college campuses and at Defense Department facilities as well.

[Image: Honda EV by mariordor59]

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Tina writes frequently for Triple Pundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.