A new California legislation would transform electric cars into a back-up power source for the state’s struggling grid.
However, experts agree that the idea although promisingit still faces some technical challenges to clear. They also warn that mandates like the one that was enacted in the California measure could raise the price of electric cars.
In the proposal proposed by Democratic state senator. Nancy Skinner, all electric vehicles manufactured in California beginning in 2027 will require the ability to store power and transmit it. The measure was approved by an Senate Committee this week following having cleared another committee earlier in the week. A plethora of health, environmental and community groups are in favor of it, whereas the largest trade group is against it.
The idea behind the plan is to supply California with electricity during times when resources are scarce, Skinner said at a recent state Senate committee hearing. Additionally, EVs can make a huge impact, she said.
The state is hoping to have 8 million zero emission vehicles to be on the roads by 2030 “if less than 10 percent of those EVs were to be utilized in this way, it would have more gigawatt capacity” than the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant located in San Luis Obispo County, Calif., Skinner said. “So there’s great potential here.”
As of now, California is on its path to electrifying its automobile fleet.
California announced this week that more than 1.5 million electric cars had been sold throughout the state since the month of March ( Climatewire 21st April) The state also announced that more than one in five new cars purchased included zero emissions options. At present, around 40% of the EVs purchased in the United States are in the Golden State.
But there is more work to be done to ensure that EVs all-inclusive and ready to transmit electricity to the grid, experts have said.
One issue is the fact that EVs emit direct current. However, the electricity delivered to the grid has to be alternating. The conversion must be inside the vehicle or inside a wall plug.
The requirement that all EVs can be used for 2-way charging — as stipulated in the California bill — will cost a few hundred dollars to the cost of a vehicle, according to Gil Tal, director of the Electric Vehicle Research Center at the University of California, Davis. Another option is using equipment known as a vehicle-to-grid-capable charger. However, that’s only several thousand dollars, Tal added.
Furthermore, automakers employ different charging methods, Tal said, so there’s no universal wall charger option. Also, there aren’t any current regulations that encourage motorists to transmit electric energy back to the grid.
Safety concerns are a problem as well, according to Andrew Meintz, chief engineer for charging electric vehicles and the grids in the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Every inverter that is linked to the grid must have the Underwriters Laboratories certification. It requires tests “to make sure that it doesn’t catch fire, that doesn’t shock you,” he explained. The standards haven’t been developed for grid to vehicle applications, he explained and, until that’s completed the vehicle won’t be able to pass the tests.
Commercial fleets may be best placed to provide energy to the grid he suggested, because their charging and usage schedules are more predetermined as opposed to the individuals driving. There are being conducted studies on electric buses that supply electricity to the grid which is a different option, he suggested.
A FEW AUTOMAKERS MOVING AHEAD
Certain EVs have, however, been equipped for dual-way chargingfor instance, those like the Nissan Leaf and the Ford F-150 Lightning truck.
In September, Nissan said a two-way charger from Fermata Energy could be used in conjunction with the Nissan Leaf models from 2013 and after. Nissan could not be specific about how the Leaf could transmit into the grid.
The EV Ford truck is designed to provide an alternative source of power for homes but not the grid.
Ford’s F-150 Lightning truck can power homes in the event of a power interruption for up to 3 days or for up to 10 if power rationing is in place according to the firm. At present there’s no option for using the truck to power grids.
However, Tesla plans to have all of its vehicles able of charging two-way “within the next model year,” Skinner told an hearing before the State Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications earlier this month.
Tesla has not responded to inquiries for details on its plans.
However, Tesla cars may be in production since they run on a closed-system, Tal added, where Tesla produces both EVs and chargers.
Certain EV advocates are against the mandates included in this bill.
“Having a 2027 rollout — which would mean that the engineering has to start now — adds unnecessary cost for kind of a benefit that we’re uncertain of,” said Orville Thomas, the state policy director for CalStart the non-profit organization dedicated to advancing green transportation.
The state is implementing a new rule that is advancing electric vehicles. It prohibits sales of cars powered by gas beyond 2035. The regulation also requires specific battery specifications, Thomas said. How can two-way charging be compatible in accordance with these rules Thomas said.
“Is that going to mean that the battery needs to be replaced for the second user?” He asked. “Will the state of charge be less because you’re drawing down on the battery and its duty cycles are being compromised?”
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the largest trade association for automakers, wrote in a letter addressed to Skinner about the requirement that could increase by more than $3,000 the price of a vehicle. There are also concerns about the grid’s ability to allow two-way charging, the group said.
“The many unknowns of how to implement such a complex and nascent technology are too challenging at this time to establish a mandate,” the letter stated.
Many utilities are conducting pilots to study two-way charging as well as incentives for electric vehicle owners to charge their cars in the most convenient time for the grid.
Ford is conducting pilots in conjunction with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. in the San Francisco region and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. With Pacific Gas and Electric, Ford is testing how its vehicle-to-home technology can help customers who are affected by grid disruptions.