Like so many innovations of the digital age, electric vehicles (EVs) promise to transform the way we do seemingly mundane things, such as driving a car.
One of the other miracles of modern technology is its ability to stretch its impact beyond the ordinary things for which it was intended. In this regard, EVs are no exception.
A new platform being developed by the Palo Alto, Calif.-based Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) is intended to make the EV not only a car for fuel-efficient driving but also an integral device in the evolving smart grid.
In July, EPRI announced a joint project with eight automakers and 15 utilities to develop and demonstrate an open platform that would integrate plug-in EVs (PEVs) with smart grid technologies. The connection would offer many benefits to car owners and utilities alike.
In technical terms, EPRI states it will enable integration across multiple communication pathways, such as automated metering infrastructure (AMI), home networks, building energy-management systems and energy-management services providers.
The platform will also allow utilities to rely on PEVs as ancillary electric-power storage devices or, in simpler terms, big batteries on wheels. Utilities could draw power from connected PEVs when demand is high to help stabilize the grid and store the intermittent power from renewable sources, such as wind and solar.
On the other side of the equation, the platform will allow PEV owners to communicate with their utility and take advantage of variable rates by charging up at times when demand and rates are lowest.
Utilities and regional transmission organizations participating in the project include Austin Energy, CPS Energy, CenterPoint Energy, Commonwealth Edison, Con Edison, DTE Energy Co., Duke Energy, Manitoba Hydro, Northeast Utilities, PJM Interconnection, Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, Southern Co. and TVA.
Automakers include BMW, Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi and Toyota.