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The EV fleet: our future energy storage network

published, Mar 22, 2009 11:56pm
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To make renewables work well our smart energy future is going to require lots and lots of battery storage, because if the wind's not blowing and the sun's not shining, where else will all the electrons come from? The Electric Vehicle can become the cornerstone - a massive distributed battery storage network!

Conventional wisdom thinks of EVs in terms of:

  • how many miles per charge,
  • time to charge,
  • where are the charge points going to be (and who's going to pay for 'em)
  • ...and the list goes on

We also consider EVs to be like-for-like replacements for our current gas vehicles - this is comparing peaches to lemons.


created on: 03/22/09

In the future, as people switch away from driving in exchange for more sustainable transportation (i.e. public transport, bikes and motorbikes), cars will be left to "rest" in garages and on the street. If these cars are Electric Vehicles that's a lot of untapped energy potential!

Each EV has its own internal battery; a fleet of EVs can form a massive mobile battery storage network. Just plug your EV into an available outlet - I've got at least 50 of them in my small home - to connect it to the grid. As an EV owner you will be able to offer your electron storage facility to your local energy community in an electron "swap and share" program. You may even be able to profit from selling your stored energy back into the grid at peak times.

Our cars will be able to power our evening activities and can provide spare capacity for people who may need a certain amount of energy for an upcoming trip. It's like asking your neighbor to borrow a few buckets of electrons so you can pop down to the shops for the weekly grocery trip. This is the sustainable energy "missing link," the solution to our energy storage problem.

Eventually solutions applications and technology will be developed that will make this a reality, and allow for seamless management of our energy on an increasing community basis.

Things will be very different in time, and it's going to be amazing to watch our smart energy future evolve.


images courtesy of flickr


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Hi Sam,

Great post mate - perfect length to easily digest your thoughts.

I like this, but wonder whether this may actually work for the EV. Can we really provide power to the grid BUT still have a car that runs when we need it to? I see this as the biggest barrier to reducing the impact our cars have on the environment - because currently we need them to be ready at all times (or at least think we do) and then be able to drive x00's of kilometers at a time.

I like how the www.betterplace.org guys have gone about addressing this issue, with a large infrastructure plan to put in place 'refill stations' (similar to petrol stations) where you can simply install a new, ready to go battery into your car and keep going, 2 minutes later.

What are your thoughts on how we avoid this current trend in human behaviour?

Hey Steve,

The electro transport world in my opinion will be quite different from what we have today, and it could possibly be even better that we could ever imagine.

Much research has shown that the vast majority of trips are less than 30 kilometres, and sizing and pricing battery storage (which is expensive) will mean that we won't size our cars for 4-500 kilometres before empty.

I was thinking about this the other day, and in fact this is for “convenience” as re-fuelling a petrol car is a pain, as you need to

   1. find a petrol station (which are getting rarer and rarer these days) and
   2. stop and fill it with the stinky fuel.

It occurred to me the electro car will be great, I get home, it charges and I'm done.

We don't always use our cars, and mine sit at home almost all the time, while I ride my bike wherever I need to go, and my wife takes the “pram” anywhere within walking distance.

Add solar panels to our roof (which will be going up on the @samotage household soon) and all of a sudden it makes good economic sense (with a bit of management) to use an electro car's battery to power the house when not out and about.

Interestingly I read of a story about a US dude caught in a recent ice storm, which tend to take out the power lines. He used his Prius with an inverter to power his home during the outage!

I rekon the battery swap system you mention is a great idea, though I wonder about the following however I wonder if the car makers could ever standardise? There are so many engineering variable s that go into stuffing batteries into an electro car.

One thing that will happen is that battery technology will get better, and fast charge will become a reality, like the A123 batteries today which can get to 80% of their capacity in around 10 minutes. This brings a new aspect into the the equation, as such a fast charge requires a huge amount of electrical current to “fill up” the battery. What's the answer, I suspect this could well be local and distributed storage, something we've never seen before.

I think cost economics will be the biggest impact on human behaviour. As the price of petrol sky-rockets, people will evaluate their needs vs. wants and make the appropriate decision within the realms of their available cash resources. This could however mean that in the future we all find ourselves riding push-bikes...



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