What if electric vehicles could create power as well as just consume it?
It’s a crucial question as a huge surge of electric vehicles are expected to enter the market in the next few years.
Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology might be the answer.
Going both ways
California wants millions of EVs on its highways by the end of this decade — but, given that this would represent a massive drain on the power grid, the state is aggressively funding research in bidirectional batteries.
This innovation can store energy that electric vehicles harvest from sunlight, then feed it back into the power grid.
So far, only the Nissan Leaf can do this, and in the United States its potential has been barely tapped into.
And not everyone is on board with the concept, especially car companies with heavy investment in traditional, carbon-emitting internal combustion engines.
This is just one of several speed bumps on the road to electric-vehicle dominance, along with the cost of these vehicles, their electricity source, and their huge drain on the energy grid.
Critics also note that eliminating carbon emissions by cars is not a real solution if electric cars are powered by coal-fired power plants.
And California may find itself in a budget bind if its push for electric vehicles succeeds, given that electric-vehicle owners in California are exempt from the state gas tax.
This would deprive the state of $32 million in revenue per year — money that is used to maintain the roads that all vehicles drive on.
To make up for this, zero-emission vehicle owners will be charged extra in their yearly registrations starting this year — $100 in California, and ranging from $50 to $200 in other states.
Grid capacity is perhaps the central concern.
To go 100 miles, electric vehicles use as much electricity as a home uses in a day, on average.
The U.S. Department of Energy claims that over the next 30 years, American electricity consumption may increase by over a third, due largely to electric vehicles.
The source of the energy is therefore critical — whether it’s fossil fuels or renewable sources is a game changer.
Another challenge is managing the power grid so that millions of vehicles do not recharge all at the same time of day.
One solution is “smart charging” vehicles that only tap into the grid when demand has lessened.
These challenges and opportunities will continue to emerge as electric vehicles are more widely adopted.