OK, seems sensible

Electric car owners will be paid for letting an energy company use their vehicle’s battery in a pioneering scheme to increase take-up of the cleaner vehicles and help power grids manage the growth in green energy.

Nissan and one of the UK’s biggest challenger energy suppliers, Ovo, will offer the “vehicle-to-grid” service to buyers of the Japanese carmaker’s new Leaf from next year.

After installing a special charger in a customer’s home, the supplier will take over the management of the car’s battery, with owners able to set a minimum amount of charge they want for driving the next day. Ovo will then automatically trade electricity from the battery, topping it up during off-peak periods when power costs about 4p per kilowatt hour (kWh), and selling it at peak times for about four times as much.

At a small scale at least. But what happens at larger scale? People who know more than I around here have been saying that this sort of thing needs a considerable upgrade to the local at least grid doesn’t it?

33 thoughts on “OK, seems sensible”

  1. The grid has enough trouble dealing with all those ovens cooking the Sunday roast. Quite how it will cope with a couple of million cars being plugged in at the end of the afternoon school run and daily commute doesn’t bear imagining. Anyone any idea of how many HS 2’s it would cost to upgrade the system and how many windmills would need to be built?

  2. The grid copes quite well with short term steep increases in load, especially with Dinorwig on line. However this does depend on generation towards the centre and load towards the edge. Trying to balance sources and loads where sources are also near the edge is a whole different ballgame. Stability is then very hard won.

  3. One of the arguments about green energy sources is that you need energy storage as well as energy generation to smooth out the lumps and bumps in demand.

    It’s obviously occurred to someone that plugging in millions of high-capacity batteries to the grid could be that storage.

    Considered purely as storage batteries, electric cars are still expensive. But if they’re going to be there anyway, you had might as well use them. It ought to help with grid stability. When the wind is blowing, you charge up the cars. When it stops, you use the cars to power the grid. And you get paid for the service.

  4. Delightfully, South Australia has volunteered to show the world what happens when you head in this direction.

  5. What about the life-cycle of the batteries. A Li-ion battery has about 1000 re-charge cycles before it needs replacing. If you now do multiple charge cycles per day the life of your car battery will be significantly reduced. Will the money gained by renting out the capacity to the electric supplier?

  6. @Raffles

    That’s the first thing that occurred to me. At the moment these batteries are very expensive, and will probably remain so for a long time yet. Will the replacement cost be reflected in the payments?

    That’s the thing about ‘green’ energy: the cost of manufacture, installation and subsequent disposal of the devices, whether they be solar panels or wind farms — or, in this case, charging points and batteries.

  7. > What about the life-cycle of the batteries? A Li-ion battery has about 1000 re-charge cycles before it needs replacing.

    You lease your new electric car on a PCP for three years; that’s about 1,000 charges. At the end of the contract you hand the car back to the leasing company and let the second-hand sucker buyer deal with the consequences.

    Cars aren’t meant to last forever.

  8. “…this sort of thing needs a considerable upgrade to the local at least grid doesn’t it? ”
    On the particular aspect of using vehicle batteries for tap-able energy storage, locally at least it’d reduce the stress on the grid. If one looked at it from an individual household point of view, you could be using the car’s battery to power your oven cooking dinner. So no draw from the grid at all.
    But that demand is going to be coming when the vehicle itself has just ended its own use cycle & be at the low end of its charge cycle. Works if “owners able to set a minimum amount of charge they want for driving the next day.” & don’t drive until the next day. But forget about taking the car out after dinner because the daughter’s missed the last bus & needs picking up. The car won’t have the charge to do it.
    Essentially, you’d be signing up to a limitation of usage on your vehicle for any other purpose than going to work. Can’t imagine that’d be popular.

  9. @Bis, exactly. If I had an electric car at home, I’d want it to be fully charged or charging at all times.

    Install batteries in homes then, why put seat/bodywork and wheels around it?

  10. Also, how many people would need to install this sort of system before the price differential between peak and off-peak narrows? Or vanishes entirely?

  11. @Andrew M

    Yes, but if the batteries now only last for 18 months because the electric company adds charge/discharge cycles, who pays to have them replaced.

  12. you could be using the car’s battery to power your oven cooking dinner. So no draw from the grid at all.

    I’d like to think that as you could cook dinner AND have a functioning car thirty years ago, the glorious technological future would at least retain that feature set.

    These are all solutions for an entirely man-made energy shortage.

  13. “You lease your new electric car on a PCP for three years; that’s about 1,000 charges. At the end of the contract you hand the car back to the leasing company and let the second-hand sucker buyer deal with the consequences.”

    And you don’t think that once a few people have been suckered, the value of second hand 3 yo electric cars drops to zero (because their batteries are all fucked) and the people leasing them to you on a PCP then just raise the charges over the 3 year life to take that into account? And thus the consumer pays, as ever?

  14. Jim,

    The second-hand value of electric cars is already terrible, because of the onward march of technology. Why buy a three year old Renault Zoe with a 100-mile range when you can get a new one with a 200-mile range?

  15. Physics always sticks it’s nose in.

    To transmit electricity efficiently over distance requires high voltage AC.

    Car batteries are low voltage DC. To feed power from batteries into the mains would require an inverter to change DC to AC, then step-up transformers to increase voltage.

    This process means energy losses in the inverter and transformers. Given this process has already taken place in reverse to charge the batteries from the grid, energy losses are doubled. It a very inefficient way to supply electricity.

    The problem with ‘green’ energy is it is intermittent, variable, unreliable and not despatchable because the method of production cannot be controlled and scheduled. It cannot therefore provide base load, nor be relied on to meet peak demand.

    The problem is keeping the grid sectors balanced with the grid as a whole.

    Adding yet another unreliable and variable sector supply to the mix can only make the problem worse.

    It is also the case that to use ‘green’ energy when it is available, means disconnecting fossil fuel power stations from the grid so it is not overloaded. What is the point of that since the fossil fuel generators must still burn fuel as they cannot just be shut down, yet whilst they are producing a PD (and emitting CO2), the power is not being used?

    We can have an efficient, low cost reliable electricity supply just by burning coal and/or gas – we know this works.

    There is no evidence, nor is it rational to believe, that atmospheric CO2 at concentrations lower than at other times in the Earth’s history, suddenly took control of the climate system at the end of the 20th Century for the first time in four billion years.

  16. Also, how many people would need to install this sort of system before the price differential between peak and off-peak narrows? Or vanishes entirely?

    Indeed. If there is no longer a ‘peak’ and ‘off-peak’, why should there be price differentials to exploit?

  17. “The second-hand value of electric cars is already terrible, because of the onward march of technology.”

    But not zero. Which they would be if every single one of them had fucked batteries after 3 years of use because they had all (by law) been charging and discharging to the grid all the time when not being driven.

  18. The other problem with “green” energy is that, as the bottom, it is entirely electricity at the consumer end. So, instead of half of energy consumption being via the electricity grid and half of it via the gas grid, all of it will be pushed down the electricity grid with no plans to double the thickness of all the cables buried under all the pavements and swap people’s 100A fuseheads for 200A fuseheads.

    And also the madness of using gas – a highly mobile form of energy – to make electricity. Convert gas to heat, convert heat to motion, convert motion to electricity, push electricity through hundreds of miles of wires, convert electricty into work, with conversion losses at every point, instead of push gas through pipes and convert to work.

  19. jgh

    And also the madness of using gas – a highly mobile form of energy – to make electricity. Convert gas to heat, convert heat to motion, convert motion to electricity, push electricity through hundreds of miles of wires, convert electricty into work, with conversion losses at every point, instead of push gas through pipes and convert to work

    I wondered about that some time back. Could it be efficient / practical to take the existing gas supply to the house, and make your own electricity, in addition to existing form of pushing it through a boiler to generate hot water / central heating?

    Small generator, needs to be quiet if in any urban type area, etc, how to deal with material changes in demand (the kettle), batteries, etc..??

    There are lots of such generators around designed primarily just for back up use?

    If the efficiency rate of the small generator is high enough, then – based on typical UK prices (~3p per KwH for gas versus say 13p or more for electric) – then some sort of business model for home produced electricity may be feasible?

  20. Make fuel cells cheap enough and they would be good for that. Better efficiency than gas electricity plants as well.

  21. Just by chance I see this today:-

    http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-41469231

    Tesla’s 100MW (129MWH) battery for South Australia is being built.

    It implies that this battery costs about £38M, then there’s the wind farm required to charge it. There is £88M allocated, I wonder if there’ll be any change?

    Could it really make a difference? I see 100MW as a small %age of states power needs.

  22. Bloke in North Dorset

    I still don’t get it.

    We all arrive home between 5pm and 7pm with our electric cars 25% charged. Put the kettle on and start making dinner. Cookers and microwaves do their things and by 8pm peak demand is just about passed and everyone is settling down to watch TV, cars are what, 35-40% charged?

    By midnight cars are fully charged but most people are fast asleep.

    Add that to all the other issues raised and this idea of using car batteries as an extra grid supply is like a zombie, it just won die.

  23. @ PF – “Could it be efficient / practical to take the existing gas supply to the house, and make your own electricity, in addition to existing form of pushing it through a boiler to generate hot water / central heating?”

    Many such units already exist – here’s one:

    http://world.honda.com/power/cogenerator/

    Others have been developed which use the Stirling engine, such as the Baxi Ecogen. However this has been discontinued, and a read of the most recent comment here:

    http://www.yougen.co.uk/blog-entry/1660/Is+domestic+CHP+dead+and+buried%273F/

    probably explains why!

    I think the principle is fine, but making it work on a domestic scale simply isn’t economic.

  24. Tim / Dave

    Fuel cells / CHP

    I remember looking at CHP a while back. Forget cost for a second and pretend that if done to a larger scale, that could change.

    It seemed flawed at the time (if I understood it correctly) in that the electricity generation was only effective whilst the boiler was operative. Which seemed to be a fail, especially in the summer? The fuel cell can run continuously, and with a backup boiler for colder periods when central heating is needed, which seems more effective? But cost is still uneconomic? Maybe that could change if developed further?

    https://www.theengineer.co.uk/residential-fuel-cells-could-cut-energy-bills-and-lower-co2-emissions/

  25. @monoi, October 3, 2017 at 8:37 am

    Install batteries in homes then, why put seat/bodywork and wheels around it?

    My first thought too. Allow anyone to install a battery-bank of any type (Li, Pb…) not a select few using only approved suppliers & approved battery types.

    It has a name – free market.

  26. @Rob, October 3, 2017 at 9:30 am

    These are all solutions for an entirely man Gov’t-made energy shortage.

    FTFY +1 now

  27. BiND,

    You’ve got it backwards. You arrive home with 25% and the residual gets immediately discharged into the grid at peak time.

    Your car gets charged back up when everyone is asleep between midnight and dawn.

    At least that’s how I understood it.

  28. CU

    You’ve got it backwards. You arrive home with 25% and the residual gets immediately discharged into the grid at peak time.

    Just as you were then about to head back out for the evening..:) Sure, I get it, you simply flick a switch that says “Oi, keep your thieving mitts off my motor” or something….

  29. PF,

    Yes, that’s the theory, you predict your demand and they manage your charge level accordingly on the sell high buy low principle.

    As others have pointed out above, this leaves you stuffed in an emergency. And once people realise this and apply the precautionary principle to their required residuals, the whole thing rather falls apart.

  30. Corvus Umbranox

    “As others have pointed out above, this leaves you stuffed in an emergency. And once people realise this and apply the precautionary principle to their required residuals, the whole thing rather falls apart.”

    It’s funny, I’ve been thinking about this, recently having been through a few floods and nasty weather, I’d really rather stick with a petrochemically charged SUV than some battery driven car.

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