Willett Kempton looks under the hood as UD and NRG Energy announce a partnership.

Electric vehicle initiative announced

UD to partner with NRG Energy to develop electric vehicle-to-grid technology

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1:43 p.m., Sept. 26, 2011--NRG Energy, Inc. is partnering with the University of Delaware to take electric vehicles to the next level with eV2g, a company commercializing new technology that will enable electric vehicle owners to sell electric storage services from the batteries of parked electric vehicles to help stabilize the electricity grid.

Pioneered by UD's Willett Kempton, professor in the School of Marine Science and Policy and director of the Center for Carbon-free Power Integration, this patented leading-edge vehicle-to-grid technology has garnered worldwide attention and holds promise to transform the future of the electricity supply.

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"As more electric vehicles hit the road and charging stations—such as those provided by NRG’s eVgo network in Texas—continue to proliferate, electric vehicle-to-grid technology is the next logical step in the electrification of our transportation network," said Denise Wilson, president of NRG’s Alternative Energy Services. "Working in partnership with the University of Delaware, eV2g technology will for the first time offer a true two-way interface between electric vehicles and the electric grid, resulting in cost savings to electric vehicle fleet operators and eventually other electric vehicle owners and consumers, and cleaner and more reliable electricity for everybody. It’s one more way electric vehicle owners can commit to a sustainable energy future and get paid for it at the same time."

eV2g’s technology would allow electric vehicle owners to sell battery storage back to the electric grid while the electric vehicle is plugged in—at no risk or inconvenience to daily driving needs. 

The program will initially help electric vehicle fleet managers to get connected with eV2g, then individual electric vehicle owners in the future. Once enrolled and plugged in, eV2g allows electric vehicles to communicate with the grid and lets grid operators take power from connected electric vehicles during peak usage periods. 

Electric vehicle owners can schedule in advance any times their vehicles need more charging than usual, as for a unusually long trip, and what minimum level of charge they want to maintain at all times. eV2g collects payment from the grid operator and pays electric vehicle owners for making their vehicles available.

"Energy research, including grid-integrated vehicles, is an important priority for the University of Delaware," said David Weir, director of UD’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships, which oversees the University’s knowledge-based assets from licensing to commercialization. "The energy storage inherent in automobiles is staggering. If all the automobiles in the U.S. were electrified it would be enough to power the entire U.S. for half a day. The strategic partnership between NRG and UD provides the opportunity to tap this enormous potential thereby enhancing energy security, facilitating integration of renewables and lowering the cost of electricity."

"After years of developing the economics, policy, and engineering, then developing systems and testing them, it is gratifying to see the grid-integrated vehicle become a commercial reality," said Kempton. "This technology can be paid well, to provide the short bursts of back-and-forth power that we use to correct imbalances in the electric power grid.  In the future, this technology will be important for smoothing out the fluctuations in renewable energy production."

Electric grid operators rely on resources that can help provide or absorb short bursts of energy to keep the grid running smoothly, and parked and plugged-in electric vehicles are ideal for helping to fill that role. Balancing the grid this way generates no additional emissions and can lead to a decrease in electricity costs over the long term by delaying or supplanting the need to build new generation facilities.

According to a press release announcing the partnership, electric vehicles—powered by electricity generated from cleaner domestic fuels—have the potential over time to reduce air emissions dramatically and begin to put the brakes on the ongoing transfer of American wealth to oil-producing nations. America spends approximately a billion dollars a day for imported oil and transportation accounts for more than a quarter of America’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Photos by Evan Krape

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