Thinking Tech

Electric cars can now earn money for owners

Posting in Energy

A proposed program would enable EV owners to offset some of the costs by selling electric storage services to help stabilize the electricity grid.

The high cost of electric cars is one of the most common reasons consumers cite for choosing not to own one. For those people, a pair of green tech startups plan to implement a program that would enable EV owners to offset some of the costs by selling electric storage services to help stabilize the electricity grid.

It works a little something like this: Through a partnership between NRG Energy and startup eV2g, owners can sign up to allow grid operators to take power from their plugged-in cars during peak usage periods. EV 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 EV owners for making their vehicles available.

The technology, originally developed at the University of Delaware, treats a network of electric or hybrid electric vehicle batteries as a distributed energy source. Plugged-in vehicles would be relied upon to either supply quick bursts of power o or absorb short bursts of energy to keep energy distribution systems running smoothly. Currently, operators rely on energy production from natural gas plants to help stabilize the grid.

A wide network of storage batteries would be an attractive resource for electric grid operators who have been feeling the strain of rising energy demands during peak periods. 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.

"The energy storage inherent in automobiles is staggering," said David Weir, Director of UD's Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships. "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."

So how much can owners earn from turning their electric vehicles into de facto emergency power plants? According to a report on CNET, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, citing the University of Delaware's work, told attendees at a grid conference last year that owners could pocket about a cool $3,000 a year offering their services.

The companies have yet to announce when they plan to launch the program.

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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure