Honda and General Motors are helping to conduct a study which will examine the possibility of EVs helping to balance the supply of electricity through smart grids of the future, and lining EV owners' pockets at the same time.
With the explosion in connectivity that has taken place, the premise of the study is to establish ways of retrieving the data that is shared between EVs and power grids to make them more intelligent. By doing so, it might be possible for EV owners to earn money by storing power in their vehicle's batteries and feeding it back into the grid when it is required – for example at times when power demand is high – thereby helping to balance it.
The research is being undertaken under the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative – a consortium of automotive, IT and other relevant businesses that promotes blockchain standards and which both GM and Honda are a part of. Blockchain, a way of exchanging and trading online crypto currencies, is seen as the key to connecting and monetising the initiative in the future.
The reason behind the research is fairly simple; smart grids are typically powered by renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, but these are inherently unreliable. To solve the problem of demand outstripping supply without turning to traditional fossil fuels, the idea is that domestic storage – such as EV batteries – can be used.
Utilising EVs as a means of balancing the power grid may seem fanciful, but it's not without precedent. Volkswagen announced in January that it was to launch a power company called Elli with the goal of providing power specifically for e-mobility. Furthermore, Nissan has been eyeing up the opportunity of expanding Vehicle to Grid (V2G) services, developing smarter charging along the way. On top of this, the transfer of surplus power between cars and homes is already in practical use. What this study is hoping to do is establish this precedent over a much larger scale – connecting a multitude of EVs to power grids through direct and live data transfer.
An example of this in micro form can already be found in an unlikely real-world location: Orkney. In April this year a pioneering project called ReFLEX (Responsive Flexibility) which is seeking to create a green energy grid was launched and is being funded by the UK government to the tune of £14.3 million. The main reason for using Orkney as a test bed was its already high rate of homes that generate their own electricity which stands at 10 per cent compared to the UK average of less than 3 per cent. Additionally, EV ownership is significantly higher than the UK average, with 2 per cent of homes having one.
The Orkney example aims to prove that a smart grid, utilising green power with the back-up of connected EVs being used as 'power sumps', is workable in a real-world situation. Now, with the much larger study being conducted by GM and Honda, the macro-scale smart grid, which rewards EV owners for storing and feeding power back into the mains, may be on the horizon.