Electrical vehicles for energy storage: an unexpected solution to grid needs
- Dec 3, 2019 12:53 pm GMT
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Energy storage is an issue because the energy sector and transportation planners continue to view themselves as separate markets for batteries; this was an argument that was made by a researcher at the World Resources Institute, and we can see why he’d think that way.
Electric vehicles are a mobility asset, yes, but because they function on batteries, they’re also an energy asset. This is what WRI’s global senior manager for EVs, Camron Gorguinpour, believes. For this reason, they’ll begin looking at EVs as a duality instead of just focusing on one thing.
Harnessing energy stored in electric vehicles and putting it back into the grid is not a new idea. China has actually adopted it already, and, as EVs continue to be adopted in America, the idea is becoming more and more promising. According to the International Energy Agency, there will be 130 million EVs on the road worldwide as early as 2030, and that’s their conservative estimate. Their most aggressive estimate says there will be around 250 million of these vehicles on the streets. In total, 6% of these batteries could meet all the storage needs of the American electric grid. Granted, the cars themselves will still need a substantial portion of this percentage to run, but it’s a good start.
If energy and transportation systems are able to share batteries, demand on resources such as rare earth elements, lithium, and critical minerals would be highly reduced, according to aforementioned Camron Gorguinpour. It could also help manage the ebbs and flows we see in wind and solar generation.
If we don’t take advantage of electric vehicles for energy storage purposes, we would need to make a massive amount of stationary batteries, which means more resources need to be used to cover the needs of energy services, especially in terms of transportation costs. For this reason, they’ve come up with a strategy where different activities are stacked together using common resources. This is meant to minimize the unnecessary use of natural resources.
That being said, minimizing the industry’s impact on natural resources is not the only objective. Another important objective is to create sustainable systems by leveraging the energy transition.
The idea behind this kind of strategy, according to Gorguinpour, is to create a system that will support sustainability. However, he does recognize that owners of EVs might not wish to tap their batteries to the grid because it can greatly affect battery life. That being said, these concerns can be managed, and they actually don’t apply to all the uses of grid batteries.
These concerns apply mostly to users who do things that require a deep discharge of batteries every single day. In that case, battery degradation would be significant, but we also need to keep in mind that we’re talking about the future. In 2030, EV batteries are expected to have a lot more capacity. Therefore, the activities that would cause deep discharge today might not be a problem in the future.
As the industry continues to grow and the prices for batteries continues to drop, users may have less and less concerns about the lifespan of their batteries. The quality of batteries will certainly improve in a decade, which is why we can say in confidence that EVs will become an unexpected yet elegant solution to the issue of grid storage needs.