EVs are set to become more crucial to a stable energy grid with each passing year.
The State of California sent shockwaves across the country when it announced the sale of gas-powered vehicles will be outlawed by 2035, mimicking, to a large degree, the new resolutions brought forward by the European Union. The State of New York has similar ambitions. This has led many to believe that the power grid will be doomed in the near future and simply overburdened by the mass adoption of electric vehicles.
But according to a report from Business Insider, more electric vehicles could strengthen the grid. When parked, EV batteries could be used to store energy and send it back to the grid when needed. This elegant solution relies on vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology which, says Columbia University's Matthias Preindl, can help rid the country of dirty energy sources.
Because wind and solar power have sporadic energy generation, the electricity these renewable methods produce needs to be stored for later use. "If we want to go to 100% renewables, which is now the target of many states, that requires a lot of batteries," said Preindl. Electric vehicles would be ideal for this.
Toyota has already been working on something similar. Using old hybrid and EV batteries, the brand has invented the world's first large-volume energy storage system. It works in the same way Preindl described above. Essentially, it stores renewable energy for use at a later date.
According to estimates from The National Resources Defense Council, the 14 million electric vehicles expected on Californian roads by 2035 could power all the homes in the state for three days.
While V2G is a reality, the technology still has a long way to go before it's considered mainstream. Andrew Meintz, a chief engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, told Business Insider some changes will need to be made if the process is to be widely adopted.
If EVs are expected to power the grid, the various stakeholders - automakers, charging firms, et cetera - would need to standardize the process. What's more, Meintz said utility companies would have to pay electric vehicle owners for their contribution to the grid, adding that large corporations with sizeable fleets could use their financial strength and their influence to broker deals with utility companies, automakers, and charging services to perfect the system.
Highland Electric Fleets, a company that provides electric buses so school districts, is already exploring the benefits of V2G technology, and with remarkable success.
Two of its buses have already been pressed into duty in Massachusetts and often send power back to the grid to help when there's high demand for electricity.
"At the end of the day, let's use these buses for what they can do," said Sean Leach, the firm's director of technology, to Insider. "These batteries are huge. They spend a lot of time not doing anything because the routes are very predictable for schools."
While the concept of EVs collectively supporting the grid is some time away, a similar concept has already been introduced, albeit on a smaller scale. When equipped with the brand's Intelligent Backup Power system, the Ford F-150 Lightning is capable of powering a home for up to 10 days, and it's not the only vehicle that can send energy back to the grid - a very handy feature in the midst of a blackout.