Smart Power

The term smart power is used to describe a system where the actual price of electricity is known by the consumer on order for decisions about using that electricity to change. For example, it may cost considerably more to run a dryer during the day, than at night. Metering which detects signals sent by the system are currently on their way, and allow consumers to have a say in their electricity usage. It also so happens that energy can be sold back to the grid through inverter systems. The amount of money given for the electricity will be determined by the demand at the time, and the cost of generating to meet that demand.

Smart power metering is an important part of the puzzle when we talk about vehicle to grid. An electric vehicle may be set up to retain a certain threshold required to drive home that day from work for example. All the other stored energy can be transmitted to the grid when the utility is paying the most. This allows the consumer to make some money on their storage asset, and reduces the amount of load following infrastructure that the utility must install. A win-win for both utility and consumer.

Other ways utilities store energy are pumped underground hydrogen storage. This is common in countries such as Germany. Other ways include pumped storage of water. Projects of this nature however are dependent on the right geography and often will not be possible due to environmental issues. Sodium sulfur batteries are used on the power network in some countries such as Japan, although this is a very expensive option.

The advantage of a vehicle to grid system, is that all the money otherwise spent on purely energy storage infrastructure can otherwise be used to fund a zero emission fleet of electric or plug in hybrid vehicles. In Australia where there is so much renewable and sustainable energy available, it would be quite backward to ignore such potential. The major hurdle is significant vehicle to grid research, development and V2G infrustructure implementation to allow the rapid switch to an electrified transportation system.

Smart Grid Technology

Smart grid technology refers to the communication side of the vehicle to grid mechanism. The electricity network can tell the vehicle to grid connections to draw power from the vehicles when demand suddenly out strips generation capacity. The consumer has the power to sell the stored surplus electricity in their battery depending on the time of day, and how much that electricity is worth to the utility. This empowers the consumer not only with the knowledge about the differing costs of electricity, but also with the ability to make some money back for locking in with demand cycles.

Lastly, smart grid technology has the ability to lock into some sort of Google Maps application and let the consumer know where recharge points are located and when they are available. Communication between utility, the consumer and those in charge of the recharge points is the key to vehicle to grid working optimally.

In the future I would expect internal GPS integration with the vehicle to grid network, as well as the ability to book and locate charge points through say an iPhone or other portable graphical phone device.