So your plug-in electric is greenest when it uses renewable energy to charge. No dirty coal or hang-around-for-ever nuclear. But now the sun’s not shining and the wind isn’t blowing, but you are not using your green mobile. So you plug it in and give back, getting paid for it.
It is called vehicle-to-grid or reversible charging, similar to selling excess solar panel power from your home to the grid, but using your car’s battery as a bridge in the renewable cycle.
Groupe Renault is kicking off the first large scale pilot schemes this year to make sure it works and set the standards for the future.
A fleet of fifteen Renault Zoe cars with this technology will be introduced in the Netherlands and Madeira in Portugal. More pilots will be launched in France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, and Denmark. Renault’s alternating current technology has the reversible charger inside the vehicle, so you only need a simple, inexpensive adaptor for the existing charging terminals.
These vehicle-to-grid operations will coordinate the charging and discharging of thousands of electric vehicle batteries between the users’ needs and the grid’s supply of available electricity. So you will have thousands of cars charging when there is excess supply, but then acting as a reservoir, a supply of available power when demand exceeds supply. An electric dam if you must, filling during a flood and emptying during drought.
The beauty of this project is that it aims to limit the need to build expensive renewable infrastructure to cover peak demand, that 10 or 20% that will be needed only so often.
This technology is in the pilot phase because it is so new. But if it works as planned, it will become a vital cog in a vast renewable grid. Renault is not only testing the technology, but also its integration into local, regional or national power grids.
It is not only about generating power here and sending it there, or sending it back from storage when needed. There is a whole economic model to be developed and tested, a legal and regulatory network to be built and refined. Take South Africa as a model. This will involve Eskom, probably all nine provinces and at least all the large cities. There will be a host of independent power producers, the Cahora Bassa hydroelectric plant in Mozambique and the entire electric charging network. And of course thousands of electric vehicle owners.
But if Renault’s model works, it can become a point of light in a vast renewable energy matrix that may help solve our energy and climate problems.
Yes, I did say the Matrix, but it is the good kind.