Chrysler Group has partnered with Detroit-based non-profit NextEnergy to evaluate electric-vehicle (EV) batteries to see if they can be viable storehouses of electricity to send surplus power to the grid.
Four battery-powered EV minivans are connected to a charging module that, with NextEnergy’s technology, can simulate an electrical grid. Among the scenarios under study is reduced reliance on “spinning reserves” – the expensive practice of having huge generators at the ready to balance spikes in energy demand.
If EVs were linked together in sufficient numbers and their combined surplus power was sold to utility companies, they could conceivably offset demand surges. The expectation is that tapping such a reservoir would cut costs for utility companies, while also putting money into the pockets of EV owners. Similarly, a mini-grid composed of EVs would enable “peak-shaving,” which would see EV owners draw from their own power reserves during those hours when demand for electricity – along with its price – is highest.
The project also considers the impact of cloudy days on solar-panel function. EVs could provide supplemental power, a process known as “generation-firming.”
The two-year Chrysler-NextEnergy partnership launched in 2011 and has been gathering data from four Chrysler Town & Country minivans equipped with all-electric powertrains. Each is powered by a 24kwH battery modified to accommodate bidirectional charging.
In addition to studying vehicle design elements such as battery size, engineers are investigating how EVs with reverse power-flow might affect grids known as Independent System Operators (ISO). An ISO buys, sells and transmits electricity. Project engineers are collecting real-time pricing data from ISOs and weighing them against projected battery performance to help define revenue expectations. Preliminary results show particular promise for ISOs that utilize solar and wind energy. Final results will be compiled later this year.
The project is funded with $1 million from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and $400,000 from NextEnergy. Chrysler Group is supplying the vehicles and in-kind engineering support.
Just last week, General Motor’s OnStar said it was working on a project with TimberRock Energy Solutions that uses aggregation software and solar charging canopies with integrated storage to manage the flow of solar power to benefit the electric grid.