May 12, 2012 – Vol.17 No.8
RETHINKING ELECTRIC CARS – PART 8.
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News
To add to their appeal, electric cars need to do things conventional cars can’t. Features not possible with petro-fueled cars will help sell the petro-free cars. The more cars sold the more likely new electric models will be introduced, and, in the spirit of competition, prices will drop. Hopefully.
Being oil free is a major feature, of course. That’s obvious. Zero tailpipe emissions is another. Here’s another important one: Electric cars, when parked, can be really powerful stationary energy storage devices. Think off-grid power for your home.
Electric cars collect electricity from the grid for their own consumption. And it’s possible that some of that grid power might be from renewables, which would make them really clean. They also can also store electricity from a grid-tied home solar or small wind system. Aside from using electricity from the vehicle’s battery pack to drive around town, it’s also technically possible to channel that power pack into the house when wanted or needed. The cars can give back that power at any time, including in emergencies when the grid goes down, or even at the homeowner’s discretion. The electric vehicle could allow people to almost disconnect from the grid. (A grid connection, or another energy storage device would be needed for the home when the electric car is out and about.)
Battery electric drive gives people the opportunity to use home-brewed energy for transportation as well as store this energy for domestic use. Fortunately, the stars are becoming aligned for solar energy, in particular, to meet up with electric cars.
Home photovoltaic solar systems are becoming very appealing cost wise, especially for do-it-yourselfers; those who are willing to do the grunt and somewhat technical labor of installing their own system. Somehow, I’m just guessing that die hard do-it-yourselfers are often the same crowd that want to generate their own home power and would be happy to see their car powered by it as well.
I’m one of those.
I came very close to buying a small solar electric system for my new digs in sunny Florida. The Fed’s tax credit of 30 percent and a $2 per watt rebate from FPL (Florida Power and Light) brought the net cost down to $5600, or so, according to a rough, over the phone estimate for a 2.3 kilowatt system from a local installer.
But alas I didn't do it. New rooftop solar systems should be installed on a new or nearly new roof. Mine is getting too close to replacement to wisely install a new multi-thousand-dollar solar system.
It’s just as well I didn’t sign a contract. My research into my own grid-tied solar plant made me fully aware of how inexpensive component prices – panels, inverters and mounting racks – have become when buying over the Internet. Offered in kits, solar systems are very close to plug-and-play for skilled homeowners. I say “really close” because there some things do-it-yourselfers shouldn’t do without professional help. Most specifically, the final connection to the home electrical panel box should be done by a licensed electrician.
The 30 percent tax break will be available until the end of 2016 so I’ve got some time.
There's been a lot of talk from utility companies about using plugged-in cars to store excess electricity then buy it back when they need it in vehicle-to-grid programs or “V2G.”
Yet there hasn't been much talk about EV owners using their cars as energy storage systems for their homes. In Japan, Nissan proved that a LEAF could become an emergency power supply and Mitsubishi is offering connection device to use its i-Miev as back-up power, but it’s for the Japanese market only.
In the confines of one's garage there's nothing to stop an EV owner from charging his car from a solar system on the his roof, whether the system is grid tied or not. Anyone wishing to buy both an EV and solar PV can have a solar powered car.
There is however a problem when attempting to feed power from the battery back to the house. If not done correctly the potential is there to feed power back to the ENTIRE grid, which could be disastrous for the car and possibly the house too. The electric utility probably wouldn’t like this possibility. They want control and management of the electricity that comes and goes on their power lines. I would too in their position.
However, plenty of people have home emergency generators which they plug in certain appliances, such as a refrigerator. It’s also possible to have a special panel box installed that will operate only certain circuits in the house by the generator. Those special boxes isolate and disconnect specific circuits from the main panel box, thus disconnecting them from the grid. It’s this type of installation that could be installed to tap the battery of the car for emergency or discretionary power.
Even though it seems possible that utility companies could lose electricity revenues from homeowners generating their own power, overall they stand to gain from the mass adoption of electric vehicles from the new revenues obtained from vehicle charging. Not every electric car owner will have a solar electric system. They’ll still have plenty of business.
Electric car manufacturers would gain in additional sales. But they would have to help out in promoting the car-as-home-energy-supply concept first by publishing guidelines as to properly using the car as an energy storage device. They also would have to adjust their warranties to include the possibility of using the car’s battery for more than driving the vehicle. And finally, do as Mitsubishi has done, provide the equipment, or certify products by others, to do the job of feeding battery energy to the house.
if the utilities or the car manufacturers don’t play along maybe an independent after market industry could be established to make car power into home power. The bits and pieces of that industry are already out there, some even on the shelves of your nearest home supply store.
RETHINKING ELECTRIC CARS - PART 1
If EV’s don’t catch on at a quicker pace, manufacturers might have to go back to the drawing board.
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