Getting Paid to Charge Your Car – First Steps

April 26, 2013

One of my more popular “solutions” videos starting to come true.

Basic idea, electric cars provide stability and storage to a distributed electrical grid, paying the car owner for the very valuable service.

I put this out before the Chevy Volt and other electrics hit the road, but the idea is still the same. Now we’re taking baby steps to make that vision become reality.


Finally, payback for the plug-in.

A line of Mini Coopers, each attached to the regional power grid by a thick cable plugged in where a gasoline filler pipe used to be, no longer just draws energy. The power now flows two ways between the cars and the electric grid, as the cars inject and suck power in tiny jolts, and get paid for it.

This nascent form of electric carcommerce will be announced on Friday by the University of Delaware, the regional grid operator and an electric company. They have developed a system to collect payments for work (balancing supply and demand moment to moment) that is normally the domain of power plants.

The possibilities of using electric cars for other purposes are being realized around the globe. Electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet’s plug-in hybrid Volt, are generally not sold in the United States with two-way chargers that could feed back into the grid. But Nissan is offering a similar device in Japan that allows consumers to power their houses when the electric grid is down.

In the Delaware project, each car is equipped with some additional circuitry and a battery charger that operates in two directions. When the cars work with the grid, they earn about $5 a day, which comes to about $1,800 a year, according to Willett M. Kempton, a professor of electrical engineering and computing. He hopes that provides an incentive to make electric cars more attractive to consumers, and estimates that the added gadgetry would add about $400 to the cost of a car.

The frequency of electric current in the United States is supposed to be stable at 60 cycles a second, but if the supply from a wind farm or solar plant changes suddenly, or demand shifts, frequency gets out of whack.

The market that Professor Kempton is tapping into, known as frequency regulation, has become increasingly important as the mix of generators on the grid has changed.

If electric cars become more popular, proponents say that a network of thousands of plug-in cars could help stabilize the grid.

The cars listen for a signal from the headquarters of the regional grid operator, the PJM Interconnection, in Norristown, Pa., that comes every four seconds. The signal could tell the batteries to charge, or to discharge, or to do neither. Alternatively, if the cars need charging, they can provide the same service by varying the amount of current they draw. For the grid, the effect is to add or subtract load in a coordinated way that aids stability.

With a relatively powerful two-way link, the idea is to branch out into another service the grid needs, known as “spinning reserve.” Power plants that offer that service keep a turbine spinning, but not generating power; they are ready to pick up load at a moment’s notice, if called on by grid operators. Providing spinning reserve burns substantial amounts of fuel, usually natural gas, but batteries could do the same work with no pollution, experts say.

At any given moment, a car could provide one service or the other; an aggregator could decide on an hour-by-hour basis which service to provide. So far, the system now being commercialized is nowhere near the point of absorbing surplus electricity at night and selling it back during the day; for the time being, the frequency regulation market would be more lucrative and the battery capacity is relatively small. Besides, peak demand hours often fall when the driver would want the car on the road.

9 Responses to “Getting Paid to Charge Your Car – First Steps”

  1. Don Strong Says:

    Why does one need a car? What does the battery and electronics cost? How long does the battery last? With an $1,800 payback per year, the battery alone could be a decent investment.

  2. Bruce Miller Says:

    Super – insulated structures, homes made from Straw Bale, (‘R’ 60 +) or Styrofoam molded sections glued together, concrete sprayed in a day, electric car batteries, compensatory water pumping/electric genereating systems in use in Germany today, even Wind sources and Solar sources, peaky and irregular, can charge car batteries, utility vehicles quickly, at varying rates, and at their prime production levels, for later use. Geothermal can yield huge electric power and at a very steady rate. Israeli Electric car uses aluminium pallets to store electric energy. Tidal Electric takes many forms. Farmer near Ironprior Ontario uses manure from dairy farm, anaerobically digested for methane, an easy to store, burnable fuel, and a Top Soil building fertilizer slurry. He powers diesel styled generator engines designed for that purpose with the methane, returning electricity to the grid at peak demand for peak demand rates – a small fortune!
    Wind Power! Hard to believe but more power is lost in the foothills downdrafts near Calgary Alberta Canada, than is produced by the oil in all Saudi Arabia – every year! How to trap, and use this energy? Make Aluminium there? Sell the Al pallets for power generation on demand? As in the Israeli electric car? Or better? Build Wind Powered Factories there? Huge green houses to produce food? Drive Electric Bullet Trains from Calgary and Edmonton to the Tar Sands regions? Free, renewable = perpetual power in Western Canada? The Prairie Wind Corridor? Will China’s huge appetite and stronger ability to pay higher prices for fossil fuels drive petroleum product prices beyond the reach of the average North American? Can we compensate by converting to super insulation, Solar, Wind Wave, Hydro, Tidal Geothermal, Biological, and Thorium LFTR fissioning means to survive, even make a profit on the fossil fuels we export? Will pelletized hemp for home heating find larger markets? Will cheaper and better public transportation find a larger market as petroleum prices are driven higher by a growing Asia? Batteries, effective long life batteries, even stationary battery installations for homes become a practical reality? Much to do about Solar Hot Water heating, augmentation? Anaerobic digestion of city and town sewage for methane? Will Thorium LFTR styled reactor advances really ‘Alter Global Energy Maps Forever”? Remove the U.S. Petro – Dollar Oil/energy monopoly from the shoulders of the world marketplace? The Chinese Thorium reactors reduce the Uranium/enriched uranium, U.S. “secrets” from the Global Energy picture? Can the U.S. prevent progress, to remain in her 20th Century “comfort zone”? For long? Will Chinese electric carbon fibre drones operated from bunkers and even Space Station(s), “out gun” U.S. F-35’s, missiles, rockets and the like? Will the Chinese finally give in, lower themselves to American War Mongering and create money churning, population enslaving, MIC and a “Cold War” to keep the U.S. Banks afloat? Will China duck and cover behind Kim Jung Un, avoid this unnecessary expense and maintain focus on building its empire?

    • andrewfez Says:

      Whatever happened to that Tesla antenna where one could run up a long antenna up into the atmosphere, and connect the other end to the earth and capture the atmosphere’s ‘radiant energy’, at something like 50 volts per foot of antenna (before applying a transformer to it)?

      Is that something similar to an inductive charger (see Roger’s post below)?

      Here’s a video of a guy that invented a solar generator in like 1910 or 1912. He just put some reflective material in a curvilinear frame and the sunlight bounced off of it and focused onto a metal pipe with water in it. Then the water boiled and ran a steam engine.

  3. Why does one need a car? What does the battery and electronics cost? How long does the battery last?

    Cars are pretty handy for getting around. We have roads and everything. Not sure we need big batteries, tho.

    Imagine if our roads had inductive chargers in them to charge our cars on the fly, powered by the limitless energy of the sun . Then we could have 100% clean cars without any guilt.

    We could realize that dream by diverting, for five years, what we now pay for fossil fuels and instead use it to pay for a national renewable energy utility, which could power our entire country from a single installation project in the American southwest.

  4. MorinMoss Says:

    “but if the supply from a wind farm or solar plant changes suddenly, or demand shifts, frequency gets out of whack.”

    You’d have to have a heck of a lot of solar / wind for that to affect the grid.
    For now, abrupt changes in demand are a much bigger factor.

    And before bringing up the old Texas canard about blackouts caused by unreliable wind generation, please read the link below, including the comments ( feel free to ignore or take advantage of the ones with ads for divorce lawyers and hair removal)

  5. […] 2013/04/26: PSinclair: Getting Paid to Charge Your Car – First Steps […]

  6. Bruce Miller Says:

    Eventually the U.S.A. and all humanity for that matter, will find ways to reduce basic cost of living, and reduce the effort required to do it – through science. Oil during the Cheap Oil Era was ideal energy. Now with oil prices rising quickly and American PPP(Purchasing Price Package) per U.S. Dollar shrinking even faster, our EROI (Energy Return On Investment) (from Biology) decreases faster than we can adapt, faster than we can return to an agrarian society, faster than we desire. Chinese Scientists face the same situation, control population growth , and still face exponential energy demands from their people. Chinese solutions include Solar, Wind, Wave, Hydro, Tidal, Geothermal, Biological, and Fission both uranium and thorium based. In their desert areas, they are now calling ‘Energy Factories’, huge photovoltaic, and other Solar means have been initiated with great success and are a continuing progress there. Wind has made huge advances, they now have many companies building Wind Turbines and in every plausible location. Wave not often revealed by the Chinese but apparently is on the list for development too. Hydro – from micro and mini efforts to the Three Gorges Dam all cherished and well developed. Tidal, a region they speak little of? Huge Geothermal efforts in China, often published and with good results and growing fast. China is sorely lacking in safer cleaner Biological, Anaerobic digestion of sewage and manure for methane gas and Top Soil building fertilizer byproducts – seems strange considering the massive pollution problems they have, to ignore this inevitable resource flow – especially since it keeps drinking water supplies clean. Pebble bed Gas reactors underway in China today – higher efficiencies, higher temperatures for industrial processes, higher efficiencies of operation, lower fuel demands for a given power output, and less offensive wastes are the promises. Thorium LFTR styled reactors also underway there, promise 99% efficiency from much cheaper much more readily available Thorium (and U232 – a waste product from their existing reactors?). and plutonium free, much less, benign, safe after 300 years wastes. Keeping in mind the huge amount of U.S. “paper” China has accumulated from loans to America, she is in a position to dominate, in U.S. Petro Dollars , all petroleum purchases on earth for at least a half-century if not longer, and China desperately needs all of this energy and much more to continue her expansion to a Pan Eurasian Empire, the inevitable goal for her. America? Already left behind in world trade stats this last Quarter, passed by China, losing ground even more quickly now as a China driven by an intelligentsia that outsizes America’s by magnitudes, driven by Maoist and other oriental ideologies, attacks to survive, not for its upper class, but for the whole body of people there, even shunning, penalizing, personal fortunes – almost in mirror reverse image of the current American ‘corpocracy’ (since ‘Nixon Shock of 1977’ ) with its abnormal wealth concentrations. China has won hands down the war on the economic battlefields of this world and juggernaut style bounds down the field in drunken zigzag pattern seemingly without reason to corporatists clearly dancing to a different tune – one the West cannot hear? And energy – the final goal of all, and not necessarily as oil in this 21st century in the Chinese hands now, as they ‘Alter Global Energy Maps’ with Thorium fissioning technologies.

  7. […] EcoCAR 2 Year 2 competition with E85 PHEV$40,000, 200-Mile Electric Car From -Getting Paid to Charge Your Car – First StepsElectric Cars Safe To Drive For Patients With Implanted Cardiac Devices body.custom-background { […]

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