Un automóvil eléctrico australiano preparado para la V2G

El Gobierno de Australia autorizó el primer coche totalmente eléctrico para circular por las carreteras de Australia, el Mitsubishi iMiEV, pero éste no es el único coche eléctrico disponible en Australia, que también puede recargarse con energía solar o eólica.

El EvMe es un coche eléctrico diseñado y montado en Australia por Energetique en Armidale. Los componentes del automóvil provienen de una gran variedad de fuentes de todo el mundo, el cuerpo es del Mazda 2.

Según la empresa, el evMe ha demostrado que después de 5.000 kilómetros de conducción en ciudad y en carretera, la autonomía de la batería es del orden de 160 a 200 kilómetros, dependiendo de factores como el estilo de conducción y el terreno.

Mientras que la eficiencia de un vehículo con un motor de gasolina es inferior al 30%, la del evMe va del 85 al 96 por ciento.

evMe emplea una batería de polímeros de litio (LIPO) con una vida útil superior a 10 años, basada en la utilización normal de unos 40 kilómetros por día.

El evME tiene una velocidad máxima de 130 km por hora y puede acelerar de 0-100 en 10 segundos y el coste de la electricidad es de sólo dos céntimos de dólar australiano por kilómetro.

Al igual que los estadounidenses Ebox y Aptera, el evME también puede recibir, almacenar y suministrar electricidad de nuevo a la red utilizando un sistema V2G (Vehicle 2 Grid, o del Vehículo a la red).

El coche se conecta a un enchufe eléctrico doméstico y no requiere cables adicionales o un equipo especializado para la carga básica.

Una carga para 200 kilómetros realizada a 10 amperios requiere alrededor de 15 horas, pero las necesidades diarias medias se pueden completar en 3 horas diarias.

Uno de los retos de los coches eléctricos es la fuente empleada en la generación de la electricidad para recargar. En Australia, gran parte de la electricidad proviene de la quema de carbón.

La empresa señala que el evME puede integrarse fácilmente con las instalaciones residenciales de energía solar y pueden funcionar por completo con energías renovables, lo que realmente lo convertiría en un coche de cero emisiones.

Si la electricidad procede de energías renovables, como la eólica o la solar, las emisiones son nulas, que es precisamente lo que propone el proyecto REVE.

Otra característica interesante es la perfecta actualización del software y el diagnóstico en tiempo real a través de redes 2G/3G, de modo que el diagnóstico puede ser realizado a distancia sin necesidad de devolver el vehículo a un garaje para su reparación.

Los cinco asientos del evME cumplen con las normas ADR y tiene un precio de 70.000 dólares australianos. A diferencia de otros vehículos eléctricos anunciados para su uso en Australia, el evMe ya se puede adquirir.


Another Australian Electric Car – the evME

We recently reported on what was termed by the Australian Government as the first all-electric car certified to run on Australian roads – the Mitsubishi- made iMiEV; but it’s not the only electric car available in Australia that could also be recharged by solar power.

The evMe fully electric car is designed and assembled in Australia by Armidale based Energetique. Components for the car come from a variety of sources all over the world – for example, the vehicle uses the body of the Mazda 2.

According to the company, the evMe has shown that after 5000 km of driving in both city and highway conditions, a normal range is in the order of 160-200 km depending on factors such as driving style and terrain.

Where a standard petrol motor will convert less than 30% of the car’s fuel into useful work, evMe boasts efficiencies of between 85% and 96%. evMe uses Lithium polymer (LiPO) battery technology that provides a service life exceeding 10 years based on usage in a normal commuting averaging 40 kilometres per day.

The evME has a maximum speed of 130kmh and can accelerated from 0-100 in 10 seconds in performance mode and electricity costs are only two cents per kilometre. Like the USA’s eBox; the evME also has grid connect features, enabling it to supply electricity back into the grid using a V2G (Vehicle 2 Grid) system.

The car plugs into a standard domestic electrical socket and requires no additional wiring or specialised equipment for basic charging. A full 200 kilometre charge from a 10 amp supply will take around 15 hours, but based on average commute use could be topped up daily in 3 hours.

One of the challenges of electric cars is the source of the energy for recharging. In Australia, much of our electricity is generated by the emissions intensive burning of coal. The company states the evME can easily integrate with residential solar power installations and can operate entirely on renewable energy; making it truly a zero emissions car.

Another interesting feature is the seamless software upgrades and real-time diagnostics across 2G/3G Network; so diagnostics can be undertaken remotely without the need to return the vehicle to a repair garage.

The five seat evME complies with ADR standards and is priced at $70,000. Unlike other electric vehicles announced for use in Australia, the evMe is actually available for purchase now.


Electric car that pumps energy back into grid

Australian engineers have developed a plug-in hybrid electric car that not only generates power but can pump it back into the grid, potentially reducing running costs.

In coming years, car giants Toyota and General Motors will mass produce plug-in hybrid cars, but researchers at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) have gone one step better, developing what they call the vehicle-to-grid (V2G) prototype.

Taking a standard 2006 Toyota Prius, engineers at UTS converted it to plug-in, and then installed additional batteries in the back so it can store electricity, which can then be transferred back into the power grid.

UTS is the first in Australia to develop the V2G technology, and one of the first in the world.

"The vehicle-to-grid technology this car presents could do for the automotive industry and the electricity industry what the personal computer did for computing, and what the mobile phone did for telecommunications," UTS research project director Chris Dunstan said.

"The extra batteries can store energy at off-peak times and feed power back into the grid at times of peak demand.

"On a large scale, this could level out peaks and troughs in power supply across regions."

Mr Dunstan said the running cost of a plug-in hybrid was about a quarter that of a petrol car, or the equivalent of 40 cents a litre using a renewable energy source.

And if energy companies were to compensate motorists for pumping electricity back into the grid, they could potentially save even more money.

Based on a 30km commute, the UTS prototype, dubbed Switch, would cost as little as 50 cents a day to charge with off-peak power.

The prototype would save up to 2.8 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year.

Mr Dunstan could not predict how long it would take before a V2G car came on the market, saying no manufacturer yet had plans to develop such a vehicle.

The success of the V2G car would rely on the support of energy companies, whose willingness to buy back the unused electricity would be critical.

"If there is not the demand from the electricity industry to provide this power back in at a reasonable price and a rate that makes sense for consumers, then there is no point in pursuing the technology," Mr Dunstan said.

"We want to get the electricity industry excited about this technology. We want to demonstrate that it is entirely practical."

NSW Environment Minister Carmel Tebbutt admitted V2G was a long way from becoming widespread, but said Switch would become part of her department’s car fleet for a trial period.

The Department of Environment and Climate Change helped fund the vehicle.

She admitted a financial incentive, such as a feed-in tariff, would be necessary to create demand from motorists for the new technology.

The NSW government will introduce such a tariff for households generating solar power by the middle of this year.

"You could envisage a world in the future where many people have these cars and there is an opportunity to say ‘tomorrow we need everyone to feed their cars back into the grid’, and that will help us address a power need on that particular day," she said.

"There would obviously need to be a financial incentive for people to do that, but we’re a long way away from that at the moment."

V2G-My ride? It’s a power plant

Electric cars could sell battery power back to the grid in an emerging plan called V2G – ‘vehicle to grid.’

By Mark Clayton | Staff Writer for The Christian Science Monitor/ April 24, 2009

Dragging an inch-thick power cord from a curbside charging station to his all-electric-drive car, Willett Kempton plugs it into a socket just above the vehicle’s front bumper and flashes the tiny smile of a man who thinks he knows something others do not.

Perhaps he does. The University of Delaware professor’s test car isn’t merely charging up – it’s potentially sending power the other way, too.

A computer inside the car communicates with the giant Eastern PJM power grid. Through the connection, PJM can ask for extra juice from the car’s battery to balance fluctuating demand on the grid. The car’s dashboard computer checks the vehicle’s battery level and – if there’s enough charge to drive home – can sell the excess energy back to the power company at a profit.

While a handful of such vehicle-to-grid (V2G) research projects have emerged from California to Texas to Colorado, Dr. Kempton’s project has driven the farthest.

For more than a decade, Kempton has researched, lobbied, and agitated for these “cash-back cars.” His and other in-depth studies describe a future where electric-car owners plug in at malls, hardware stores, or home garages and earn $1,000 to $2,500 annually for the power they pump back into the system.

Such “regulating power” to help balance grid fluctuations is valuable – recently about $42 an hour for one megawatt’s worth. One car can’t do that much, of course. But 60 cars might – and still remain charged up enough to easily get where they need to go.

Kempton’s dream took a small but critical step closer in January when Newark, Del., became the first US city to license a V2G recharging station.

The scheme’s potential for millions of cars to act as a communal backup for the grid has finally caught the attention of utility operators, Detroit automakers, and even Washington policymakers.

President Obama mentioned V2G on “The Jay Leno Show” last month, though he avoided the wonky acronym. Jon Wellinghoff, the new chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, says the nation’s shift to renewable power will require a growing V2G fleet. Because wind and solar power fluctuate throughout the day, it could destabilize the grid without a battery backup. Also cheap wind energy captured at night could be stored in millions of V2G vehicles for use during the day.

“These vehicles are a vital part of US energy security and our ability ultimately to provide for the economic stability of the country,” says Mr. Wellinghoff, an unabashed V2G backer and the man many credit with coining the term “cash-back cars.”

By this summer, Kempton’s consortium expects to deploy its first five V2G cars. Up to 200 more vehicles – retrofitted by conversion companies – could be on the road by next year, he predicts.

“If we have 200 vehicles in our fleet, they’ll sign a contract and start writing us checks,” Kempton says of the PJM grid operator.

At that point, his group will try to form a “coalition” of V2G-car owners that can provide PJM with one megawatt of on-demand power.

With Newark as hub, Kempton sees this first V2G coalition becoming a prototype for one day aggregating millions of cars nationwide into similar coalitions, each offering car owners a certain rate per hour to plug in their car.

“We’re still at the beginning of things,” says Ray Dotter, a spokesman for PJM, which serves 51 million people across 13 states. “There’s just this one V2G vehicle out there now – and we’re embracing it and its potential.”

A ‘chicken and egg’ problem

Many hurdles remain. Where will V2G vehicles and charging infrastructure come from – and who will pay for them? To be truly effective, V2G will require heavy-duty 240-volt plugs and connections similar to those on an electric dryer.

Also, while many utilities now embrace the idea of charging up plug-in hybrid cars – it’s a big new market for power after all – there is less enthusiasm over V2G. Safety concerns and the complexity of tracking power usage and assimilating power from potentially millions of vehicles is daunting.

“Utilities still need to understand the business case for V2G,” says Mark Duvall, a manager for the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). “What are the requirements for hundreds of thousands or millions of vehicles all doing their thing with power coursing through the system?”

Automakers are another critical component. Detroit seems to be cautiously opening the door to both all-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids such as the Chevrolet Volt – expected in 2010. General Motors and eight other automakers have plans for at least a dozen such vehicles to hit the market by 2012.But will they be V2G ready with the right plugs and software?

“I think the automakers think that V2G is going to happen,” says David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. “It’s … going to gain traction over the long run.”

Yet even Kempton admits that none of the auto officials he’s spoken with seems particularly enthusiastic about V2G. Some worry that the battery life of vehicles will be lessened by constant draining and recharging.

“We are exploring many vehicle-to-smart-grid options,” Robert Kruse, head of vehicle engineering, hybrids, electric vehicles, and batteries for GM writes in an e-mail. Still, “the idea of using battery life to provide power to the grid is problematic at best.”

While retrofitting works for small fleets, large-scale V2G needs the support of automakers, says EPRI’s Mr. Duvall. But, they “aren’t going to do it until they believe the battery will last the life of the vehicle.”

Kempton acknowledges that battery life could be affected, yet notes that battery leasing and power management can reduce the risks and still make the V2G proposition pay.

The business model

George Parsons, a University of Delaware economist and part of Kempton’s 15-member team, is surveying consumer attitudes about the critical trade-offs between driving range, the time it takes to charge, gasoline costs, and pollution reduction.

“Of all the surveys I’ve done, the V2G question is one of the most complex,” Dr. Parsons says. “If you can afford to buy a V2G vehicle, will people care about the cash enough to plug it in all the time?”

Meanwhile, Nathaniel Pearre, a research assistant, is analyzing actual driving patterns in a huge database to see how many V2G vehicles could be expected to plug in at any given time of day. While about 57 vehicles with high-capacity batteries could provide one megawatt of power, 200 vehicles will probably be needed to meet the demand since others could be on the road or unplugged, he says.

“It’s highly variable and fluctuating until we reach the size of a fleet,” Mr. Pearre says. “The first vehicle manufacturer that offers this kind of value to their clients is going to clean up.”

Keeping track of how much power an individual car supplies to the grid – and how much its owner should be paid – no matter where the vehicle is plugged in is another hurdle for Kempton’s team.

Even so, “it is probably a little easier than keeping track of minutes used on cellphones, which have to work while they are dynamically moving,” says Keith Decker a computer science professor at the University of Delaware. “The cars don’t have to move while they are part of the system.”

His team is developing algorithms that will not only undergird the accounting, but turn cars’ dashboard computers into “smart agents” that predict – based on driving patterns – how much battery power they will have to sell tomorrow or next month. Such knowledge is critical to any power contract.

V2G cars on the road

With Kempton’s team pulling together the knowledge base, Tom Gage, president of AC Propulsion of San Dimas, Calif., is the mastermind behind the all- electric “E-box” vehicle. His company has converted a handful of Toyota Scions into all-electric-drive vehicles with V2G software and connectors.

A handful of these 120- to 150-mile-range vehicles have been built so far at a cost of about $70,000 each. The E-boxes have about 36 kilowatt hours of power, more than double the battery capacity of a Chevy Volt. Prices could fall as low as $39,000 per vehicle as battery and vehicle volumes grow, writes Leonard Beck, a V2G expert at Eastern utility company Delmarva Power in his book “V2G-101.”

Mr. Gage’s company is right now building 500 potentially V2G capable Mini E’s for BMW. But the German automaker would need to include V2G software, which it hasn’t done, Kempton says.

Not willing to wait, Kempton has lined up car customizer Autoport to begin converting Scions into all-electric vehicles using AC Propulsion technology.

Despite remaining hurdles, Kempton is upbeat. “We’re just beginning,” he says. “We’ll get there.”