EVS-23: Reader questions on battery buzz, plug-in hybrids and V2G technology

Anaheim, California--Thanks to everyone who's written in over the last couple of days. Below are two answers to reader questions I felt had broad interest. Keep 'em coming!

 

Q: I was wondering what the buzz was about around the show: Batteries, Capacitors, or Fuel Cells? Which ones are being touted as the long-term winner? Do any battery companies stand out? Are they showing any new products? -- Michael Short

 

A: As I noted this morning, much of the buzz is about plug-in hybrids, though several speakers warned that their promise is already over-hyped. Remember, less than 100 working plug-in hybrids now exist anywhere on the globe. Some attendees are surprised at the glossy displays of the "real" automakers exhibiting (Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Honda and Toyota).

 

No one's handicapping the many battery options, including several distinct chemistries for lithium-ion. (For a discussion of A123's iron nano-phosphate cells, see "Lithium Batteries Take to the Road".) But others marvel at the broad array of electric vehicles now offered for sale, from three- and four-wheeled low-speed vehicles to medium-duty urban delivery trucks. They're not garage conversions; they're real-world products from large companies sold at authorized dealers. And, said Efrain Ornelas of Pacific Gas & Electric in a well-attended lecture, in the near term, those medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles may offer the most convincing case for the benefits of plug-in hybrids.

 

Q: Is there any discussion or actual technology for vehicle-to-grid (V2G) interconnection being discussed or shown? I'm all for plug-in hybrids, but I'm hoping the automakers don't lock in too much on a "charge-only" standard (like there's any danger they'll lock in on a standard soon). -- Glenn Skutt

 

A: Oh yes. The concept of V2G permeates the conference, though few people agree on exactly what it means. Some go directly to the concept that utilities could use smart grid technology and intelligent meters to draw a small amount of energy from each of millions of grid-connected electric drive vehicles. Those vehicles could be recharged at night, when excess capacity is readily available, and owners could agree to make a small portion of their battery energy available at times of peak demand to let utilities meet the peak of their demand curve.

 

Others caution that such a vision is a couple of decades away. First, smart meters must be in place. Second, automakers and utilities must meet, learn to speak each others' languages, and agree on communications protocols for the information to be exchanged--and where and how metering and battery control actually happen. Cyriacus Beijs, of the French utility EDF, presented a paper on a simple, inexpensive, and universal communication protocol for identifying a charging vehicle to the utility--and asked the automakers in the crowd to help him make it a reality.

 

I'll be posting once or twice more from EVS-23. If anyone has specific issues they'd like me to explore, please contact me: J V [dot] spectrum [at] ieee [dot] org.

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