Could electric cars store power and feed it back to the grid at peak times? That’s a question that researchers are using Austin as a guinea pig to answer, Statesman.com reports.
The Mueller Neighborhood has the largest concentration of Chevy Volts, the plug-in electric hybrid, in the entire country. General Motors and OnStar will be examining data from the neighborhood’s more than 50 Chevy volts to figure out how it might be possible to use the car’s battery to store power that can then be used by the electric grid when they need it most.
OnStar can communicate with GM owners in their vehicles, mostly after an accident or other emergency. But now, with vehicle owners’ permission, OnStar wants to “observe charging details with many real customers in a concentrated setting.” OnStar will be able to observe how often and how quickly car batteries could be used for to provide electricity to the grid and what this might do to the battery life. They also want to find out how the electric grid would be affected by many electric vehicles being plugged in at once. Other data points such as where, how often, and when electric vehicles are plugged in is information that will be collected and examined for the first time, for the benefit of car makers, car owners, and utility companies.
While not possible with the current batteries, eventually Volts could be charged at night during off-peak times and at cheaper rates. That energy could then be stored and be used to either power the house of the Volt owner, or even other electric users, when power demand is highest, summer afternoons in Austin’s case. Texas is in a great place to be a beneficiary of OnStar’s program because it is ahead of much of the nation in adopting “smart meters” which are part of a grid that can adjust to demands on its electricity system.