Electric vehicles could be mini power plants

Replacing fossil fuel cars with electric cars is not the solution to our climate woes, we need way way fewer cars. However, those that do get replaced could have benefits beyond emission reductions, like plugging back into the power grid and acting like mini power plants.

[T]hree electric buses at the depot in White Plains, New York, will be working overtime this summer break. Rather than transport students, they’ll mainly serve as a big battery bank, storing power and feeding it to the local utility’s electrical grid when demand is high. Starting this month, Con Edison will use the buses daily to help keep its grid running smoothly during the hot summer months.

Not all electric vehicles can do that, they need to be equipped for it, and so does the place they plug in. But when they are, they can become batteries.

The buses also have two-way, or “bidirectional,” onboard chargers that receive power and feed it back into the grid. (Most EV chargers flow in only the first direction.) Smart charging software allows all the components to communicate, so that batteries charge when grid demand is low and send back power when demand is high.

The Con Edison pilot project will use the buses’ batteries to face high summer demand but could be extended to other utility vehicles and perhaps to private cars. (The buses they use, by the way, are made by Lion, just north of Montréal.)

Even in places where EV owners can’t sell their electricity back to utilities, they will be useful in relieving the grid, when the batteries are used instead of grid power as fees get higher because of high demand.

The project in NY is still at a very early stage, but with lots of room to grow as personal EVs multiply, but also as larger vehicles switch over.

Operators of big-rig trucks, taxi fleets, and delivery vans face rising public pressure from policymakers and community leaders to eliminate toxic tailpipe pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and many are turning to battery-powered models.