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Electric vehicles are not simply “electric vehicles”!

Carlos Sousa's picture
Specialist, CEMIG

I worked in project management and environmental programs, asset management, maintenance and management in integrated electricity company (generation, transmission, distribution and commercialization)

  • Member since 2019
  • 42 items added with 6,973 views
  • Oct 8, 2020

This article aims to open a debate about the disruptive role of the electric vehicle and why it cannot be considered just a means of transport powered by electricity.

We are used to using our vehicles to transport us from one place to another, it is a useful and quick way to get around on a daily basis ... private and public vehicles are essential for our mobility.

Said vehicles powered by thermal engines, whether fossil fuels, gas or biofuels have a reservoir with a single function, to store the fuel that will be used for the combustion and transformation of thermal energy into kinetic energy and thereby allow our mobility, obviously not?


However, it is not the same when it comes to electrically powered vehicles. Without going into the physical aspects, we need to consider that, unlike the “fuel tank” whose function is basically to keep the oxidizer that will be used to move the vehicle. In the case of the electric vehicle, its battery bank is a structure for energy storage that it can be used both to move the car and to power other equipment outside the vehicle, simply said the electric vehicle, it is a mobile power plant.

Electric vehicles cannot be considered just another appliance, I argue that it should be considered as a consumer unit, or rather a mobile productor-consumer unit!

In this context, it should be considered by the distributors as a registered Productor-Consumer Unit - UP, as well as residences, and should be operated and monitored as a mobile generator micro-plant by utilities ...

What do you think of the idea?

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 8, 2020

Your title definitely drew me in, and I think I agree with you-- EVs are not gasoline-powered cars in so many ways, and it's important to start to look at them for their unique needs, opportunities, and what they'll do. From a tangible perspective, once I became an EV driver I noticed how crazy some family thought it was that I had to stop to charge for 40-45 minutes amid traveling a few hundred miles to see them-- seeing it as a complete disruption and an absurd requirement. But all I could think was how many times during the course of driving my EV have I not had to take the 10 minutes to stop and fill up at a gas station since I've owned it, since I always charge at home and seldomly make these longer trips that require public charging? In the end, I have fewer disruptions not more-- they just require a reframing of where/when/how to expect those disruptions. 

Carlos Sousa's picture
Carlos Sousa on Oct 10, 2020

in addition, I think that the possibilities of the electric vehicle can make it evolve and add functionality, just like it happened with the cell phone ... it became a smartphone that among other uses still makes calls! this line of thinking the electric vehicle will become a "smart vehicle"

Carlos Sousa's picture
Carlos Sousa on Oct 8, 2020

The insigths emerged from discussions with my colleague and great mentor Carlos Alexandre Meireles ...
  I think that when we think about electrifying the fleet in this way, it makes sense to consider electric mobility as an important disruptor in the electricity distribution sector.

Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Dr. Amal Khashab on Oct 8, 2020

It is already existing , which is called V2G.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 8, 2020

But there's a heavy amount of skepticism about it, and not much installation of V2G-- almost every program I've seen remains V1G. In other words, there's a lot of talk and not a lot of action with V2G as of now-- the question is will we get to action or will doubts (including those Musk recently expressed during his battery day showcase) continue to take hold. 

Benoit Marcoux's picture
Benoit Marcoux on Oct 9, 2020

I agree with you, Matt. There are many obstacles for V2G. 

Carlos Sousa's picture
Carlos Sousa on Oct 10, 2020

but what if we think not of "V2G" but "V2Consumer Unit"? Imagine a fleet owner who has several electric vehicles stopped in the parking lot on a weekend or holiday and intends to use this energy to supply his unit?

Benoit Marcoux's picture
Benoit Marcoux on Oct 14, 2020

I find it hard to justify the business case for large-scale residential V2G. There are simply too many business and technical obstacles, increasing its cost. However, I can see C&I V2G having a positive business case in some jurisdictions, to reduce demand charges or to obtain demand reduction credits. 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 15, 2020

Is the difference in residential vs C&I just based on the scale of individual actors? One business having a large fleet vs.a home having ~1.5 cars on average meaning the business is more valuable-- that's obvious, but I guess on a neighborhood/town-wide scale all the residents who would participate are too many moving parts rather than the predictability of a single C&I fleet? 

Benoit Marcoux's picture
Benoit Marcoux on Oct 15, 2020

Qualitatively, I would say scale, behavioral, business, technology and regulations.

Scale: The additional costs in chargers, vehicles and telecom is relatively higher for the residential sector than for fleet. 

Behavior: Residential EVs have a less predictable pattern - they may not be home when called upon by the grid. Furthermore, most modern EV drivers plug their EV once or twice a week for charging overnight (as I do), meaning that they're simply not plugged in most of the time when they are at home. 

Business: There is a need to have aggregators for the residential and small C&I markets. These take a long time to develop, as shown in Ontario, with their "Global Adjustment". 

Technology: In North America, CHAdeMO is the only plug standard that can accept bidirectional power flow, but it was a small and declining share of the market. The more common J1772/CCS plug does not support bidirectional power flow, but might in the future version of the standard, albeit current EVs won't. Tesla does not support bidirectional power flow and stated that it has no interest in supporting it. 

Regulations: Because of the legacy demand charges and peak management programs, C&I customers have an economic incentive in participating. An analogy is C&I customers starting their diesel generators during peaks. Obviously, what makes sense for each C&I customer varies for each state and province, as each of these 60 jurisdictions has their own regulations.

Carlos Sousa's picture
Carlos Sousa on Oct 10, 2020

more than that, see this example recently launched by Nissan: Nissan Re-Leaf

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 12, 2020

I hadn't seen the Re-Leaf-- this context certainly makes sense!

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Oct 8, 2020

Carlos, Right an electric vehicle is very efficient and can charge Off Peak and EVen add power On Peak with V2G Vehicle To GRID. In FACT the new Lucid Air all electric sedan has V2X built into it. It also have 500+ mile range. Why not put that energy to use. 

The new Tesla Cyber truck has 120 and 240 power outputs right in the vehicle. It can provide power at contractor remote sites instead of a small gas engine making tons of pollution. The genereators also have a short life and need oil changes etc, 

Carlos Sousa's picture
Carlos Sousa on Oct 10, 2020

Jin, exact! have you thought about the possibility that in the future electric vehicles could be part of the asset base of energy companies? Do utilities start offering a portfolio of solutions with electric mobility, including vehicles?

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on Oct 8, 2020

I think the greater potential for disruption is in the stationary batteries that will be increasingly used to support fast charging stations.

High round-trip efficiency for advanced lithium-ion batteries means that the stationary battery only takes about a 6% toll on electricity from the grid to the vehicle. It more than makes up for that by avoiding the need for very high capacity service to the charging station and avoidance of high demand charges from the utility. It can use cheap as-available electricity, and a high turnover rate of several cycles per day mean that amortization of capital cost only adds a cent or two to the customer's cost per kWh. Go PowerWall, PowerPack, and MegaPack!

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 9, 2020

I think the greater potential for disruption is in the stationary batteries that will be increasingly used to support fast charging stations.

Oh that's interesting. So would this suggest that batteries at public charging stations would on a daily basis charge up during times of low cost / low carbon intensity and when a car plugs into them during high cost / high carbon times the power would come from the battery rather than the grid (and if they plug in during that low cost / low carbon time, they could get it from the grid rather than drain said batteries)? Seems pretty simple to do-- is this practice already being commercially used? 

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on Oct 9, 2020

The idea is certainly around. I believe I've seen news clips for deliveries of stationary battery modules for use in fast charging stations. There's a fairly recent (December 2019) paper about the concept here. But I haven't seen anything yet that carries the concept to what I see as its logical conclusion.

What I expect eventually -- what I'd be promoting as a business model were I in a position to do so -- is full integration of aggregated sets of battery banks from fast charging stations into the grid. Unlike EVs themselves, the stationary battery banks would be always on line. Aggregated capacity within a distribution region could easily run to tens or even hundreds of megawatt-hours. Moreover, they provide a convient way to tap into the far greater collective capacity of the EV battery fleet. 

I imagine a phone app that displays fast charging locations and advertizes two rates: the current rate for charging a vehicle, and another rate paid for delivering charge from the vehicle. Taking advantage of the latter requires only a bidirectional fast charging port, rather than full V2G capability. During power emergencies, the rate for selling stored power to the grid could become quite high. 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 9, 2020

I love it, Roger! And now my hopes are high and I'll be upset if I don't see it in garages around me in the next few years :)

Carlos Sousa's picture
Carlos Sousa on Oct 10, 2020

Roger, your idea makes me wonder if this solution could be an alternative to extend the battery life of electric vehicles ... that is, as soon as they no longer have use in vehicles, could they be used as stationary batteries?

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on Oct 11, 2020

Yes, certainly. There are a number of companies interested in the "2nd life" market for EV batteries. Not to mention an active if relatively small market on EBay for used Model S battery modules. Mostly, I think, from wrecked vehicles. The problem: there aren't yet enough EV batteries nearing replacement dates to support a significant "2nd life" industry.

About the only ones available due to degraded capacity in their original or scrapped EVs are from Nissan Leaf EVs. Nissan's batteries lose capacity more quickly than those of most any other EV maker due to Nissan's curious omission of a battery management system.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 15, 2020

Roger, no electric vehicle with Li-Ion batteries is without a battery management system.

Without a BMS any lithium battery in a car, a power tool, or even in a flashlight that is discharged completely is forever ruined. As Elon Musk learned the hard way, it's been "bricked" - the term used by Tesla Roadster owners who mistakenly left their headlights on and came back to find their $30,000 batteries were as useful as a brick.

The Nisssan Leaf actually has a robust BMS, and its batteries, in 2011, were the most advanced large-format Li-ion batteries in the world.

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on Oct 16, 2020

Right. Thanks for the correction, Bob. I had read an article about "2nd lifetime" battery usage, and it had made the statement about no BMS in the Leaf. Didn't actually make sense to me, and I should have checked it out before passing it on. But the reporter seemed to know what he was talking about.

He was probably mixing up the type of voltage-sensing charge / discharge BMS that, as you say, all lithium-ion battery packs require for protection of the batteries, vs. the temperature-sensing thermal management system that Tesla incorporates. I can believe that the Leaf might lack the active battery heating and cooling system that Tesla uses.

Rami Reshef's picture
Rami Reshef on Oct 13, 2020

The use of used EV batteries to complement solar power is already well-established - see for example the Cruijff stadium in Amsterdam that is powered by some 150 new and used Nissan Leaf batteries. 

The key is that the system leverages the complementary advantages of solar power and batteries. I would content that to further optimize such hybrid installations, it would be wise to supplement the solar and batteries with fuel cells that can dramatically extend the lives of the batteries and are much more weather -resistant. 

As the world moves towards distributed energy models, there will be justification to leverage not only EVs but diverse energy assets and technologies that in addition to being a source of income for prosumers will also balance and stabilize the grid, which at the same time increases the grid's capacity to leverage renewable generation sources - a win-win for all.

Carlos Sousa's picture
Carlos Sousa on Oct 14, 2020

see an excerpt from the conclusion of the Parker project:

"Conclusively, there are potential revenue gains in V2G markets for both the DSO and theTSO, in their respective market models. In terms of scalability, both the DSO and the TSO marketsprovide the option of a scalable V2G business model with an associated revenue yield.In summary, the V2G solution is scalable from a technical and a long-term financial standpoint andcan provide nationwide grid stability. However, it requires a significantly larger EV fleet, the creationof a DSO market platform, and finally it requires battery and charger technology to mature to ensure apositive business case. All market models seen throughout Europe show potential for improvement,and there are definitive gains to be made if that potential is realized.
Under the current framework test in the Parker Project, it has been shown that there are potentialprofits with a small fleet of electric vehicles. No technical limitations have been found that will limitthe scalability of the business model in Denmark, and the economic gains show that the first step hasnow been taken towards the commercialization of V2G in a market. However, for V2G to besuccessful on a large scale, the industrial and political actors will have to push the agenda in terms oflegislation and technology availability."

Carlos Sousa's picture
Thank Carlos for the Post!
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