Aug 3, 2007 (From the CalCars-News archive)
Toyota has outdone itself -- this time, advancing the discussion within the auto industry on the future of V2G. The company's reservations are less significant than the fact that it is paying very serious attention to the subject.
Background: On July 26, Toyota's VP Irv Miller posted a video and description of Toyota's objectives for its pilot program -- see it at http://blogs.toyota.com/2007/07/readers-of-this.html. We commented about Mr. Miller's favorable words about conversions at http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/804.html. The other big news from that blog posting turns out to be an opening to the topic of V2G. Below is Toyota's latest post, followed by a joint response from CalCars and Prof. Willett Kempton, who is probaby more responsible than any other individual for gestating and developing the V2G concept. (We did not include several other comments that preceded ours that were interesting but off--topic.)
IRV'S SHEET: The Prius Plug-in as Energy Supplier ~ Contributed by Irv Miller, Group Vice President – Corporate Communications July 27, 2007 Posted at 04:11 PM http://blogs.toyota.com/2007/07/irvs-sheet-the-.html
We were very interested to read a question posted here by Jon Wellinghoff, a commissioner with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Mr. Wellinghoff asks, basically, about plans to equip a production version of the Prius Plug-in Electric Hybrid Vehicle (PHEV), the topic of a previous blog posting here on Open Road, for what's called Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) applications.
As you probably know, the V2G concept means that consumers would plug their PHEVs in overnight to get them fully charged, then drive to their destination for the day, plug them in again and allow the PHEV to feed its stored electrical power back into the energy grid.
First of all, we're very grateful for Mr. Wellinghoff's interest in Toyota's continuing development of our plug-in hybrid technology, and in the ways in which the Prius PHEV may fit into ideas about V2G applications.
However, we think it's important to keep in mind that Toyota's first priority is to continue developing its PHEV technology and then, when the technology is ready, get PHEVs into the hands of our customers. Secondly, our expertise is in building motor vehicles. It's not in power generation. That's something that we would prefer to leave to those best equipped to do it.
That said, as you're no doubt aware, Toyota is one of several auto makers who are developing PHEV technology. While our various approaches to solving the many challenges may differ, there is broad agreement on this: Before market-ready PHEVs can be developed, we need to develop advanced batteries that can meet the customer's expectations for performance, durability and cost. Prior to any meaningful exploration of V2G concepts, we must first resolve the very basic battery and product issues that we're addressing today.
Beyond the challenges of developing PHEV technology, electric-energy experts tell us that the hurdles for V2G concepts are significant:
- Battery performance must be 10 times higher than today's best batteries.
- PHEVs are intended to be charged from home, using existing circuitry. The grid contribution from a single car therefore is insignificant when compared to the massive size of regional grids. This means that meaningful V2G contributions will depend upon hundreds of thousands of vehicles plugged into an existing grid, all contributing grid services in some yet-to-be-defined coordinated method.
- We are unaware of any discussions concerning how to pay for the necessary infrastructure to collect the 120 VAC current from each PHEV and step it up to transmission and/or distribution voltage.
- We are also unaware of any concrete plan for insuring the safety of utility workers in light of such a massively distributed system.
- And while there are many concepts for vehicle and account identification and communication, none of these concepts are thoroughly developed.
There's another important question, as well: In light of the uncertainty of gas prices and perhaps even future gasoline availability, will motorists want to sacrifice overall MPG by trading away their PHEV's reserve battery power?
The automobile business is changing and will, we feel sure, require strategies, partnerships and alliances we might not even have thought of yet. We don't even know, for sure, if PHEVs will come to market in the way in which we think they will. Indeed, that's the point of at least some of the research now being done, using Prius PHEVs, at UC Irvine and UC Berkeley. UC Irvine, with its expertise in the technical side of these issues, is studying that, while researchers at Berkeley take a long, hard look at the human side of the equation from the point of view of the PHEV consumer.
Finally, when we discuss various pricing schemes to make the idea of V2G interesting to consumers, we must make every effort to avoid unintended consequences. We can all learn from the recent problems with the California solar roof program, where, in some cases, time-of-day rates actually increased the overall utility bills of participating customers. This had the consequence of severely reducing program participation by California consumers – the very opposite of the program's intent.
So while the potential for V2G is another intriguing aspect of hybrid technology, we must not become sidetracked so that we lose sight of the immediate goal. That goal is to produce an affordable, reliable PHEV that can be sold in large quantities, that can be serviced at any dealership, and that will meet the needs of the American motorist.
I assure you, that's a big enough task.
RESPONSE BY WILLETT KEMPTON & FELIX KRAMER Posted by: Felix Kramer | August 03, 2007 at 12:32 PM:
After Toyota's decision to begin building PHEVs, motivated by what Irv Miller sums up as "that goal is to produce an affordable, reliable PHEV that can be sold in large quantities, that can be serviced at any dealership, and that will meet the needs of the American motorist," almost nothing could make us happier than to have Toyota begin to engage a Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner who calls PHEVS "cash-back hybrids" on the potential and obstacles of vehicle-to-grid (V2G)!
As two people working every day to promote plug-in hybrids generally and the integration of the power generation and transportation sectors, we're thrilled that it took only 23 hours for Toyota's VP Irv Miller to respond to Commissioner Jon Wellinghoff's question. That tells us that the question didn't catch Toyota by surprise: people in the company are thinking deeply about this subject.
We'd like to respond on three levels to the issues raised, and point to some ways to move forward.
Just as it took a few years to persuade people that the grid had enough night-time power to charge cars, and that plugging in will provide significant greenhouse gas reduction even while the national power grid moves away from high-CO2, it's important to begin to communicate that:
- Today's batteries can easily demonstrate the benefits of V2G, many of which don't require high energy transfers.
- No car-owner will ever have to lose money making the battery available to the utility. On any day when a driver's battery is ever drained significantly, the payments will always substantially exceed the cost of driving home using gasoline.
- The technology exists today to implement V2G. The big challenge is to carefully develop protocols and standards for safety, interconnections, data management and communication, control, aggregation and accounting.
THE VALUE OF DEMONSTRATION PROJECTS
HOW DO WE GET THERE?
Once again, we thank the company and Mr. Miller for its responsiveness and openness to new ideas!
-- Felix Kramer, Founder, The California Cars Initiative www.CalCars.org
-- Prof. Willett Kempton, Senior Policy Scientist, V2G Research Group, University of Delaware www.udel.edu/V2G