Electric cars give power back to grid

Tue Mar 30, 2010 3:31pm EDT
 
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By Jon Hurdle

NEWARK, Del. (Reuters) - At first glance, the Toyota Scion sitting in the University of Delaware parking lot looks like a normal boxy car.

But a second look shows it lacks a tailpipe, and has an electrical outlet set into the grille below the hood. Inside, the Scion's identity as an electric car is revealed by the lack of a fuel gauge, and by a dashboard display showing that it has used 54.3 kilowatt hours to drive 210 miles.

But this is no ordinary electric car because, in addition to recharging its battery when not being driven, it also gives power back to the grid.

Professor Willett Kempton, who is leading the university's Vehicle to Grid (V2G) program, believes electric car batteries will represent a vast, reliable source of energy for the grid in a future when the national power supply will increasingly rely on renewable but fluctuating sources like sun and wind.

"Because in future, electricity will come more and more from sources that fluctuate, we need some form of storage that can reliably supply the grid, and electric car batteries are the most cost-effective form of that," he said.

One typical electric car can put out more than 10 kilowatts, the average draw of 10 houses, according to university researchers, and the power is readily available, since cars are idle on average for 95 percent of each day.

GIVING BACK TO THE GRID

Since 1997 the V2G program has been promoting the idea that electric or hybrid vehicles, if widely adopted, could give back to the grid during the many hours when they are not being driven.   Continued...

 
<p>University of Delaware Professor Willett Kempton lowers the hood of an electric-powered Toyota Scion near his office at the university in Newark, Delaware, March 25, 2010. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer</p>