How EVs can make your city's electric grid smarter (and more reliable)

Thu, 2018-03-29 16:19 -- Doug Peeples

When electric vehicles began rolling off assembly lines in appreciable quantities there were concerns about how they would affect electric grids. Among those worries was that large numbers of EVs charging at one time in a neighborhood could jeopardize grid reliability — or cause power failures. As time passed, it was apparent that smart charging technologies and adequate preparations were making those disruptions very unlikely. And the current thinking is that EVs can actually help enhance electric grid stability and reliability. Our story explains why. — Doug Peeples

EVs powered with clean energy can help reduce urban air pollution, and they're cheaper to operate and maintain than conventional vehicles. But they're also good for the electric grid. And it's not at all likely that electric utilities would be building and operating EV charging stations or adding the vehicles to their fleets if that wasn't the case. And many utilities are doing all of those things.

So, what can EVs do for the grid?
According to Inside EVs, there are many ways electrics can benefit the electric grid. We share a few of them here:

Battery development: As companies work to improve the energy density of their batteries and produce more of them, battery prices are falling and that makes them a more cost-effective grid energy storage solution. For example, batteries produced from the partnership between EV maker Tesla and Council Associate Partner Panasonic have been used in energy storage projects in Hawaii.

Grid regulation: As electric grids draw more energy from intermittent renewable energy sources like wind and solar, the need for grid frequency regulation increases. If an intermittent energy source drops, Vehicle-to-Grid technology could be used to draw stored power from EV batteries to maintain that frequency.

Backup residential electric power: With the right preparations and precautions, EV batteries can be used to provide electricity to homes when storms or other issues disrupt the power supply from the electric grid.

Electric industry support
According to Council Global Lead Partner Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the energy industry is supporting EVs with investments in research and development to develop EV charging infrastructure and how to further integrate them into the electric grid.

As EEI President Tom Kuhn said while announcing a report on EVs and charging infrastructure, "America's electric companies are leading efforts to advance the electrification of the transportation sector, and these companies are well-positioned to develop the charging infrastructure we need to support 7 million PEVs by 2025. Electric transportation is a win-win, meeting customer needs while also supporting America's energy security and sustainability."

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.