Pushing the Boundaries of Innovation
Can a two-way flow of energy between electric vehicle batteries and the grid lead to more widespread adoption of renewable energy?
Our Pilot Program with the U.S. Department of Defense
Edison’s demand-response pilot on Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) technology is anticipated to help determine whether a two-way flow of electricity between EVs and the grid could help balance power flow more cost-efficiently.
"EVs have batteries which are capable of two-way electricity flow into and out of the power grid. That allows them to go from simply consuming energy to potentially becoming a fully functioning component of the smart grid."
-- Lisa Cagnolatti, vice president, Business Customer Division, Southern California Edison
A Pioneer in Electric Transportation
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is sponsoring this V2G pilot as part of a $20 million effort involving six military bases nationwide. It’s a natural fit for our utility, Southern California Edison (SCE), with its history of innovation in electric transportation.
“Through our nationally recognized EV Technology Center, our company has been a pioneer in electric transportation research for more than 20 years,” Cagnolatti says.
Conducting V2G research in California makes sense, too. The state’s government both promotes renewable energy standards and endorses a Zero Emission Vehicle Action Plan that calls for 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on state roads by 2025.
Batteries: A Source of Predictable, Balanced Power Flow
To function properly, the grid requires a steady, predictable and balanced flow of power. Renewable energy resources such as solar and wind power are prone to interruptions, threatening that balanced flow and requiring highly expensive stand-by resources. What’s been missing is a viable energy storage technology to serve as a bridge when the sun isn’t shining or wind stops blowing.
If the V2G concept works, system operators like the CAISO could reliably tap into the energy stored in idle EV batteries to balance power flow more cost-efficiently. That in turn could make integrating renewables into the grid easier while prompting greater demand for emission-reducing EVs.
EVs & the Electric Grid: Two-Way Flow of Power
In the pilot, EV fleets will not only draw power from the grid to charge their batteries, but also, upon receiving an electronic signal from the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), will feed energy back into to the grid.
The EVs will also respond to CAISO signals when there’s excess capacity in the grid, ramping up their charging activity during off-peak hours. Our utility will bill the military base for the retail service to charge the EV batteries, and will pass through to the customer any CAISO payments or penalties related to the batteries’ performance in the CAISO’s markets.
Safely and Reliably Charging From & Feeding Power Into the Grid
In this pilot, SCE’s Commercial and Industrial Solutions team will help prove whether EV fleets can reduce operating costs for the DoD’s non-tactical transportation fleet. The team will test the EV batteries and software to fully determine the technical requirements for bi-directional functionality.
There are several other objectives too. If successful, the pilot could be the “proof of concept” that helps establish the viability and scalability of the V2G concept.
We’re aware that there are many potential pitfalls in the road to making V2G a reality. Regulations governing the role of utilities and retail customers in CAISO markets are evolving, and will be informed by pilots like ours. Auto manufacturers need enough proof that using EV batteries for energy storage won’t diminish vehicle performance, and plenty of other hurdles await too.
Still, several trends are working in V2G’s favor. “There’s a convergence taking place between regulatory policy involving air quality and carbon emissions, and rapidly evolving battery technology,” says Cagnolatti at SCE. “Add the fact that customers are opting for greater fuel efficiency and cleaner fuel sources, and the stage is set for V2G.”