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Tesla's Musk downplays V2G's importance in Battery Day remarks

image credit: © Tesla
Peter Key's picture
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I've been a business journalist since 1985 when I received an MBA from Penn State. I covered energy, technology, and venture capital for The Philadelphia Business Journal from 1998 through 2013....

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  • Sep 30, 2020

Elon Musk is not averse to hyping technologies. That’s why his take on vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology at Tesla’s “Battery Day” last week was so surprising.

“Vehicle-to-grid sounds good, but I think actually has a much lower utility than people think,” Musk said. “I think it’s actually going to be better for people’s freedom of action to have a Powerwall and a car.”

The Verge reported Musk’s remarks in an article that quoted a researcher as saying that V2G’s utility is actually pretty high.

“The amount of energy storage you have driving on four wheels is much more than any electric utility will ever build and put on the grid,” says Gerbrand Ceder, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. “So it now starts to make sense that you use this as a resource to stabilize the grid.”

Being able to use Tesla cars as batteries also could be handy during blackouts, like the ones California residents experience from fires and heat waves in this climate-changed world.

“Right now there’s a real need for providing backup power that [batteries] can provide,” Jeff Cook, renewable energy policy and market analyst at National Renewable Energy Laboratory, told the Verge.

One reason Musk may be downplaying V2G are that he wants to make sure Tesla owners can drive their cars whenever they want to and thinks that if the cars send some of their power back onto the grid they may not always be charged enough to go the distance their owners want them to. Another is that Tesla makes a home storage battery called a Powerwall that provides grid services and Musk is afraid V2G may cannibalize sales of it.

“It will be problematic if you get to the morning, and instead of being charged, (the car) has discharged,” Musk said, according to The Driven. “It will be better to have a Powerwall and a car operating separately. Then everything works.”

Musk may eventually have no choice but to embrace V2G. Nissan has rolled out the technology in its Leaf electric car and is participating in what will eventually be the world’s largest test of it in Italy along with Engie EPS, the Engie division that focuses on electrical storage and microgrids, and Terna, Italy’s grid operator.

Nissan also has created a modified version of the Leaf called the Re-Leaf that can function as a mobile power supply after natural disasters and extreme weather events.

If that takes off, Tesla may have to embrace something in addition to V2G technology — the use of bad puns in product names.






Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 30, 2020

Elon Musk is a physicist, his father was an engineer. Like hydrogen, he knows how to spot a loser.

"Musk may eventually have no choice but to embrace V2G."

Hah - wouldn't bet on it.

Seems in 2009 there were hundreds of automotive "experts" telling him electric cars would never, ever find a market. In July, his electric car company blew past Toyota to become the most valuable automaker in the world.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Oct 2, 2020

I've got a couple of problems with Vechicle-to-grid (V2G):

- I think having electricity-on-demand is a wonderful thing.  And the power company should supply that and not dump their problems on me (the customer).

- In my town we typically get storm-induced blackouts for an hour or so per year.  I've considered putting a backup-battery/UPS on my computer, but I simply don't care enough to bother; I have a flashlight and plenty to read.

So I'm struggling to see the appeal.  Maybe a desire to get something for nothing? The engineering world does not work that way.  More likely, supporters of V2G are hoping for a miracle fix for the stubbornly fatal-flaw of variability in their favorite energy source; I doubt that will work out.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 2, 2020

I agree that V2G seems to have started from a place of finding a problem for the solution they have, but I think with the expected scale of EV ramp up in the coming years it's worth considering what's collectively possible with that. I think the biggest issue will be incentivizing the drivers who will be quite understandably hesitant to plug in if it's costing them some of their finite battery cycles their car has in its useful life.

 In my town we typically get storm-induced blackouts for an hour or so per year.  I've considered putting a backup-battery/UPS on my computer, but I simply don't care enough to bother; I have a flashlight and plenty to read.

I agree that the seldom blackout here and there doesn't impact me personally much, but I don't think those situations are the ones we're talking about when discussing the necessity of constant/reliable power-- it's protecting the vulnerable populations who have health/safety concerns when power goes out, as well as the economic impact that even an hour of outages can have on commercial/industrial customers. It's not just the inconvenience of not having modern luxuries for that hour, it's how so many parts of society have come to depend on reliable power. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 2, 2020

"The engineering world does not work that way."

If politicians and activists left the engineering to engineers, the world would be a better place.

But "something for nothing"? That doesn't even work in business.


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