The University of Delaware signed an agreement Monday with renewable energy company NRG to commercialize a pioneering technology that can feed excess power from electric vehicles into the national grid, helping to smooth peaks and troughs in power demand and supply.
Vehicle-to-grid technology, developed since 1996 by University of Delaware professor Willett Kempton, will be promoted initially for use in fleets, and has the potential to be a significant source of power that is currently untapped, officials said.
“The energy storage inherent in automobiles is staggering,” said David Weir, director of UD’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships. “If all the automobiles in the U.S. were electrified, it would be enough to power the entire U.S. for half a day.”
Transmission networks such as PJM Interconnect, which operates the power grid in Delaware and 12 other states plus the District of Columbia, will have an increasing need for stable power input as they become increasingly reliant on fluctuating renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.
Vehicle-to-grid technology, or V2G, allows electric vehicle owners – when their cars are parked — to communicate with the grid, and regulate the flow of power into or out of their batteries, depending on whether they are depleted, or whether they have excess power that can be used by the grid to meet spikes in demand.
The technology enables EV owners to sell electric storage services from their parked cars to help stabilize the grid.
The average electric vehicle can generate 15 kw of power for short periods, compared with the 1.5 kw needed to power the average house, Kempton said. Since the average car is parked for 23 hours a day, the plan has enormous potential as electric vehicles become more widely adopted, he said.
UD partners with NRG to promote vehicle-to-grid technology
Highlights of partnership announcement at the UD Science and Technology campus (formerly the Newark Chrysler plant)
In recent years, Kempton and his UD team have developed a handful of prototypes that have proven the workability of the technology.
Now, the partnership is looking to persuade fleet operators to adopt electric vehicles equipped with the technology that can generate revenue for users that contribute to the grid. Eventually, the company hopes to include individual owners of electric vehicles.
The company, called eV2g, will pay participating EV owners for making their vehicles available, and will collect payment from the grid operator for the power generated from each parked vehicle.
PJM has been involved in discussions with UD and welcomes the technology which has the potential to smooth peaks and troughs in power supply, said spokesman Ray Dotter.
“Energy storage in vehicles can be an effective way of providing this service,” Dotter said. “If there are agreements to do that, they could be pretty significant.”
The new company was officially launched outside Newark’s former Chrysler plant, a facility that once made Sherman tanks for the Second World War, and is now part of the university’s science and technology campus.
The agreement marks a “post-petroleum repurposing of this facility,” Kempton said at a ceremony attended by also UD President Patrick Harker, U.S. Senator Chris Coons, U.S. Rep. John Carney, and Alan Levin, Secretary of the Delaware Economic Development Office.
Denise Wilson, President of NRG’s Alternative Energy Services, predicted the partnership will help develop significant new sources of power supply and transportation at a time when the U.S. is seeking to reduce both its greenhouse gas emissions and its dependence on foreign oil.
“We are on the cusp of an electric vehicle revolution,” she said. “Consumers get paid for the power they don’t need. What is it going to take to make this the mainstream?”
Wilson declined to specify the size of NRG’s investment in the project. The company is also seeking to build the Bluewater wind farm off the Delaware coast at Rehoboth Beach, in what could be the first of its kind in the U.S.