Government Technology

    Digital Communities
    Industry Members

  • Click sponsor logos for whitepapers, case studies, and best practices.
  • McAfee

New Federal Energy Policy May Result in 1 Million Electric Vehicles on U.S. Roads

July 26, 2010 By

"Change we can believe in" was President Barack Obama's campaign slogan, and whether anyone believes in it, change is exactly what the U.S. is getting. One example is the federal government's policy on energy. The Obama administration crafted the comprehensive New Energy for America Plan, the centerpiece of which is putting 1 million electric vehicles on U.S. roads by 2015. But that aggressive plan raises a concern: Can the country's aging electric grid support these new plug-in hybrid electric and plug-in electric vehicles?

Experts would say yes. In fact, with the right technology, electric vehicles could do more to help the grid than harm it. Through vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology, plug-in vehicles are capable of adding power capacity to the grid during high demand - known as peak shaving - and also storing renewable energy that can be returned to the grid during peak hours. V2G technology also may benefit consumers who could sell that excess power back to grid operators.

For V2G technology to work, however, plug-in electric vehicles must be grid-integrated. This would require car manufacturers to make vehicles with two-way connections that let them take energy from the grid for charging and give back excess power. They'll also need a control system that grants grid operators access to vehicles' batteries and a way to track energy exchange between the vehicle and grid. Finally concerns remain about the electric grid's stability, despite demonstrations of how the grid and plug-in vehicles can have a mutually beneficial relationship.

Photo: Cadillac Converj concept car/Photo by Kenavt/Wikipedia

Gridlock Demystified

The nation's power grid is designed to support peak energy loads, so when electricity demand is low - typically between midnight and 6 a.m. - unused energy is produced by coal- and gas-fired power plants. Charging plug-in vehicles during off-peak hours could use that excess energy, which is what some researchers call "filling the trough." And if plug-in vehicles charge while demand is low, it wouldn't be necessary to increase the grid's delivery capacity.

Additionally grid-integrated vehicles would include a timer to control when charging cycles begin and end. Controlled charging would mitigate too many people charging at any given time, which could overwhelm the grid. "If you have some kind of controlled charging, impacts on the grid will largely be positive," said Paul Denholm, a senior energy analyst for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Willett Kempton, a University of Delaware professor and father of V2G technology, said a Super Bowl broadcast will tax the grid more than plug-in vehicles. "On average a vehicle pulls something like 400 watts, which is about the same as a plasma TV," he said. "The thing about the Super Bowl is everybody turns their TVs on at the same time ... more of a problem than cars, which are plugged in at varying times throughout the day and night."

So the question isn't just if the grid is up to supporting plug-in vehicles, it's also whether these vehicles are up to supporting the grid.

Technical Marvels

Cars have come a long way since Henry Ford's first Model T produced in 1908. The modern array of energy-efficient vehicles is a showcase of technological advancement.

Plug-in hybrids, like the Chevrolet Volt, have an electric motor and an internal combustion engine, similar to conventional hybrid vehicles. But they differ because their high-capacity lithium-ion batteries can be recharged through an external electrical outlet. The internal combustion engine kicks in when the batteries are depleted, giving the vehicle more range. Full electric plug-in vehicles, like the new Nissan Leaf, are powered solely by rechargeable lithium-ion battery packs, which are recharged by an external power

| More


Add Your Comment

You are solely responsible for the content of your comments. We reserve the right to remove comments that are considered profane, vulgar, obscene, factually inaccurate, off-topic, or considered a personal attack.

In Our Library

White Papers | Exclusives Reports | Webinar Archives | Best Practices and Case Studies
Digital Cities & Counties Survey: Best Practices Quick Reference Guide
This Best Practices Quick Reference Guide is a compilation of examples from the 2013 Digital Cities and Counties Surveys showcasing the innovative ways local governments are using technological tools to respond to the needs of their communities. It is our hope that by calling attention to just a few examples from cities and counties of all sizes, we will encourage further collaboration and spark additional creativity in local government service delivery.
Wireless Reporting Takes Pain (& Wait) out of Voting
In Michigan and Minnesota counties, wireless voting via the AT&T network has brought speed, efficiency and accuracy to elections - another illustration of how mobility and machine-to-machine (M2M) technology help governments to bring superior services and communication to constituents.
Why Would a City Proclaim Their Data “Open by Default?”
The City of Palo Alto, California, a 2013 Center for Digital Government Digital City Survey winner, has officially proclaimed “open” to be the default setting for all city data. Are they courageous or crazy?
View All