BEV teams with Coritech on V2G charging system
This summer, the company successfully demonstrated the system, known as vehicle to grid, or V2G. It can pull off this laboratory trick at a previously unheard of level of 60 kilowatts and move it in both directions.
The project was launched in partnership with Michigan-based Coritech Services, which built the DC chargers that enable the system to work. The collaboration came at the behest of the SPIDERS (Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security) program, a joint project between the Department of Energy, Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security.
The technology was successfully demonstrated to those agencies in July at the microgrid at Fort Carson. A test at Coritech’s facility in Royal Oak, Michigan duplicated the results, as did a third demonstration in August at Lafayette-based Boulder EV’s new plant in Los Angeles for the California Energy Commission’s grants manager.
“We really drilled into this problem and made a full-court press,” said Carter Brown, Boulder EV’s chief executive. “We achieved bi-directional transmission the first time, at full power. Both in California and Colorado, there is a lot of emphasis on wind and solar energy. When there is too much of it, where do we store the energy? The only real solution is battery storage, which is what big electric trucks are designed to handle.”
In a fleet model, the concept would allow V2G vehicles to charge quickly at night when power demand is lower, as well as a practice known as “peak shaving,” which sends power back to the grid when needed, with remuneration from the local power utility to the fleet owner.
“It represents a huge opportunity,” Brown said. “Imagine 50 trucks in one place. That’s five or 10 megawatts on tap. With the technology we have right now, one truck could power a neighborhood cul-de-sac for a week. Now imagine that potential during a disaster like the one we’ve experienced this month.”
While the results have been groundbreaking for the partners involved, Brown admits that decades of research into the concept have preceded Boulder EV’s success. A major hub for innovation into V2G technology exists at the University of Delaware that focuses more on smaller automotive chargers, while Denmark’s Edison project is using the technology to balance the country’s unpredictable wind farms.
Willett Kempton of the University of Delaware is one of the country’s acknowledged experts in the field, and his team is using 20 cars to field-test the V2G concept. He was aware of Boulder EV’s tests but says that the path to commercialization remains a complicated process.
“They’re doing a technical demonstration of the actual vehicle’s ability to transmit energy,” Kempton said of Boulder EV’s test results. “Being certified, registered and becoming part of the energy market just like an electric generator company would is very different. Getting a very technical system to follow all the rules of a specific power grid is not the same as throwing a switch and discharging enemy.”
“We’re standing on some broad shoulders,” Brown admitted. “Coritech has done a remarkable job of figuring out the ins and outs of applying this technology on the charger side. The chargers and the vehicles have to be able to talk to each other in the same language, with the same accents. This is a case of two nimble, agile companies working together towards a common goal. I don’t think either of us could have accomplished this success alone.”
Brown also accented that while the environmental benefits of V2G technology are great, there are also financial considerations at play for its users. The companies currently testing Boulder EV’s vehicles include behemoths like FedEx and UPS.
“The attraction of this technology is making these electric trucks pay for themselves earlier,” he said. “An electric truck costs two or three times the price of a normal truck, so you have to have an economic payback in the end. Part of that payback is making your diesel fuel costs go away, so you’re going from 50 cents a mile to five cents per mile. Part of it is the decrease in maintenance. The V2G part is a serious economic incentive. If you have enough trucks parked in one place, all of a sudden that’s a valuable resource that the grid can manage, and pay back to the company that owns the resource.”
Cost of these chargers may be a consideration for some fleet owners. A typical AC charging station used for electric cars runs about $1,500, according to Kempton. Brown reports that each DC charging station developed by Coritech costs approximately $80,000. Brown noted that the systems are designed to pay for themselves within three years of operation.
“Let’s say a delivery company has their trucks parked for 12 hours every night,” said Brown by way of example. “Instead of spending that time charging up the battery packs, you can spend one hour charging them. Those remaining 11 hours can be used for frequency regulation, peak shaving, and generating inexpensive kilowatt energy. That’s a valuable resource for a fleet in one place.”
Brown declined to share the company’s current production numbers, but noted that those statistics were likely to change when the company’s plant in Los Angeles begins production in January of next year.
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