While vehicle-to-grid (V2G) integration remains more concept than reality in the U.S., it will likely afford economic value to cost-conscious utilities and their ratepayers in the long term.
According to a new report from CoBank's Knowledge Exchange Division, the ownership of electric vehicles are on the rise as they are becoming less expensive, more convenient to drive, more abundant, and therefore meaningful as potential utility resources.
"Though it is small now, the U.S. market share of EVs is projected to grow rapidly beginning in the mid- to late-2020s. Currently, 5 million plug-in EVs have been sold globally. The U.S. accounted for over 1 million of those," said Tom Binet, senior economist for power, energy and water at CoBank. "Automobile manufacturers, various electric utilities, and research institutions are working to address multiple technical and non-technical hurdles to EVs' widespread integration with the grid."
While today's U.S. consumers routinely express interest in the fuel savings and environmental benefits afforded by EVs, considerations of first-owner cost and convenience usually win out. With the rising popularity of EVs due to their greater affordability and range, V2G integration could become a new tool for electric utilities in the next decade.
Harnessing V2G Integration
V2G integration is characterized by many EV owners connecting their vehicles to the power grid at their home and/or workplace, at which point the system operator can charge or discharge the EVs’ batteries within agreed-upon parameters. To date, there have been approximately 20 V2G pilot programs across the U.S., along with dozens more internationally.
Projected technological developments could enable electric utilities to use the lithium-ion (li-ion) batteries of grid-connected EVs to maintain both local power quality and resource adequacy in the next 5-10 years.
Although the batteries of most existing passenger EVs have individual capacities between 20 and 100 kWh – just 2 to 12 percent of the average U.S. household’s monthly electricity consumption– the combined energy storage resource of many grid-connected EVs could prove economically valuable to the utilities who harness it.
However, EVs have yet to gain significant market share in the U.S. This will remain the primary hurdle to widespread V2G integration into the late 2020s.
CoBank's report Electric Vehicle-to-Grid Integration: From Concept to Reality gives a deeper look into the future of harnessing EVs as a resource for the grid.