Parked electric cars will power buildings, researchers say

A significant hindrance to green-friendly vehicle-to-grid technology has been overcome, say university scientists. It will result in cheaper power-hungry buildings.

Parked electric cars will power buildings, researchers say
Credit: Thinkstock

Power-thirsty data centers could receive a new kind of electricity supply that uses surplus juice found in idle electric vehicles (EVs). It uses the cars’ batteries to augment a building’s grid power.

Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology provides a way to store, then subsequently use, energy in commuters’ cars while employees work during the day. It can also supply power when a delivery fleet is parked at night, researchers say.

+ Also on Network World: Smart buildings start with awareness +

Cost savings for building infrastructure could be significant in green-electricity applications, such as solar and wind, which require local electricity storage. Installing the batteries needed for green applications is expensive.

But it’s been a perceived degrading of vehicle batteries that’s been holding the bi-directional V2G tech back, a group working on the problem says. Those researchers now say, though, that the lithium ion batteries won’t deteriorate with a new algorithm-driven system because they’re using special power calculations. In fact, their algorithm will extend vehicular battery life by a possible 10 percent, the researchers say in a University of Warwick press release.

Removing the barrier to V2G adoption

That battery longevity-producing side fact may remove a barrier to V2G adoption—car batteries are expensive to replace, too. Additionally, auto makers or owners who can figure out how to charge building owners for their vehicles' use, creating a revenue stream, could also sway the end result.

Green power, overall, though liked and becoming important for corporate appearances, is expensive. That cost is not so much in the generation of the power, but in the local storing of it.

The capital cost for storing 15 GW of solar- or wind-produced electricity in batteries will be the equivalent of about $1,200 per kW by 2030, the scientists say. Data centers in the U.S. in 2014 consumed around 70 million kWh of electricity, according to Data Center Knowledge, writing in 2016. For EV comparison, the 2017 Tesla Model S car proffers a 100 KWh battery pack.

The new V2G algorithm figures out the amount of energy a vehicle will need during the course of a period, then how much electricity can be removed “without negatively affecting it, or even improving its longevity.”

Testing the theory

To explore their theory, the researchers—which included members of auto-maker Jaguar Land Rover and members of WMG’s Energy and Electrical Systems group and was led by Dr. Kotub Uddin of the University of Warwick in the U.K.—used the university itself as a simulation model.

The school’s 5,560 car parking spaces in multiple parking lots are assumed to be occupied by 120 building-connected EVs. The researchers say their calculations prove that is enough capacity to load-level their 360-researcher university building. The structure contains multiple labs and offices, plus a 100-seat auditorium. Load-levelling is an energy-industry term referring to the smoothing of delivery when there are fluctuations in demand, such as is found over the course of a day in a building as workers come and go.

"Renewable energies are a key pillar of power sector de-carbonization,” the researchers say in an article published by Energy. “An EV connected to this smart-grid system can accommodate the demand of the power network with an increased share of clean renewable energy. More profoundly, the smart grid is able to extend the life of the EV battery."

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Must read: 10 new UI features coming to Windows 10