That’s right, we’re writing about electric cars again. Last time we were trumpeting a study reporting on the potential pervasiveness of electric cars 20 years from now.

And today?

If one Delawarean innovator has his way, someday use your electric car’s battery to discharge electricity back into the grid. The concept, known as Vehicle to Grid, or V2G, would allow your car to store excess electricity as it’s generated. This would solve one of the largest problems associated with renewable energy: what to do with all the excess energy. This is a concern for wind power, which generates much of its electricity at night when most people have gone to bed, therefore greatly reducing the grid’s demand for power. A battery storage system that matches supply to demand will help make this issue less problematic.

The proposed system works like this: when excess electricity is generated, instead of being wasted, it’s stored in an aggregate network of plugged-in electric vehicles that collectively could store up to 1 megawatt of electricity. Later in the day, perhaps when the car’s owner is working, demand will increase, causing electricity to flow from the car’s battery and into the grid. Naturally, the owner will be able to regulate the output settings to ensure that enough power is left in his battery for the ride home.

For their troubles, utility companies will compensate electric vehicle owners. While the compensation will vary depending on how much time the vehicle spends plugged into the system, most owners will earn between $1,000-$5,000. Further economic benefits include the creation of new jobs to produce the vehicles and implement the system.

Small-scale testing of the system has already occurred in California, and will continue this fall in Boulder, Colorado, as three plug-in Toyota Priuses will start sending electricity back into the county’s smart grid. Willett Kempton, the originator of the V2G concept, has also applied to the Department of Energy for a $29 million grant to fund the first large-scale field tests—enough to subsidize the cost of 450 plug-in vehicles.

Auto manufacturers have yet to jump on board with the project, citing concerns about the difficulty of implementation and the effects of increased charging and discharging on the life-cycles of batteries.

Whether this system gains traction or not, some sort of electricity storage mechanism will be essential in further increasing the efficiency of wind energy—V2G just appears to be an especially elegant solution to a complex problem.

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