They are already on the road: electric vehicles, which will be able to do much more in the future than simply transport you from A to B.
DTU has teamed up with Nissan, the second-largest car manufacturer in Japan, and positioned itself in the fast lane to develop the opportunities that electric vehicle owners will inevitably enjoy as a result of having what amounts to a giant battery parked in their driveway.
“This is a hugely exciting development that may well mean that one day, car owners will be able to earn money by supplying power from their electric vehicles to the electricity grid,” says Jens Korthsen, Electrical Vehicle Fleet Manager at Nissan Europe.
He goes on to explain that he views this as a realistic future scenario, particularly following the most recent successful test at DTU in summer 2015, where researchers are among the first in the world to succeed in having a mass-produced vehicle—in this case, a Nissan Leaf—return power to the electricity grid. This technology is commonly known as ‘Vehicle To Grid’, typically shortened to ‘V2G’.
Thus far, researchers have only managed to perform V2G using specially built electric vehicles, so it is quite a breakthrough to succeed in V2G using an electric vehicle that around 1,500 Danish car owners are already driving.
“When V2G achieves its full potential, the electric vehicle will become much more than a simple means of transport. It will be an alternative source of power, where the battery can store current and then deliver it to the electricity grid or to an individual household. Electric vehicle owners will therefore have the opportunity to reduce or even completely eliminate their electricity bills,” continues Jens Korthsen.
Synergy between vehicle and grid
It is no coincidence that a Japanese car manufacturer has teamed up on an electric vehicle project with partners including DTU, and is now taking the lead in V2G development. Since the tsunami in 2011, Japanese consumers have been showing great interest in the potential of electric vehicles to deliver current, and thus to serve as local power supplies in emergencies.
The successful test at DTU was completed as part of the Nikola project, which is being run by DTU Electrical Engineering. The project focuses on synergy between the electricity grid and electric vehicles, which have special potential in the intelligent and flexible energy systems of the future.
The development in the potential of electric vehicles is sure to benefit both individual consumers and society in general. The consumer angle is probably better known at present, as it is already common to use ‘smart charging’ to schedule the charging of electric vehicles for specific times of the day. This makes it possible to utilize periods when sources of renewable energy generate surplus current, or when power is cheaper. Similarly, it enables users to avoid periods of peak load on the grid—immediately after the end of the working day, for example, when most households start preparing meals and/or washing clothes. But there is much more to ‘smart charging’ than that, as Peter Bach Andersen, a researcher at DTU Electrical Engineering with ties to Nikola, explains:
“Electric vehicles also have the capacity to support the electricity grid with a variety of more technical services. For example, they can help the grid balance more quickly if power generation suddenly falls out of step with consumption,” he says.
“The electricity grid must constantly maintain balance between production and consumption in order to avoid power outages. In this context, electric vehicles can help ease overproduction of current by using some of the surplus to charge their batteries. Similarly, they can reduce a power shortfall either by ceasing charging, or by returning power to the grid. Electric vehicles can react extremely rapidly to imbalances in the electricity grid.”
Peter Bach Andersen predicts that in the future, it will become increasingly necessary to balance the grid quickly as more and more energy from wind and solar sources is integrated into the system.
Vehicle to X
As a part of the Nikola research partnership, researchers are now looking into the new opportunities the large batteries used in electric vehicles may open up for their owners. They call this ‘Vehicle to X’.
“For the craftsman, this may entail the opportunity to charge power tools, while it may provide picnic lovers with access to a power socket to plug an electric grill into out in the woods, and allow holidaymakers to charge all their mobile devices—tablets, laptops and so on—while driving to their destination,” concludes Peter Bach Andersen.