How can electric vehicles help the wider power industry?

The benefits electric vehicles bring to the environment and fuel consumption are widely known, but new innovations are set to extend these positives to the wider power industry as well. 

Vehicle-grid integration (VGI) is the next big thing for these cars, and will allow them to interact with the grid they are connected to when charging at home. This technology will need to grow alongside electric car sales, otherwise - if it is left unmanaged - these vehicles could disrupt regular power flow. 

What is VGI?

According to California ISO, VGI refers to the way electric vehicles can service the grid, rather than the other way around. For this to be possible, they will need to have the capability to manage two-way power distribution, meaning power can be used for charging or returned to the grid if there is an excess. 

Another key feature of VGI is the ability for vehicles to modulate their draw on the grid. Rather than consuming electricity at a linear rate, VGI will enable cars to slow or increase their rate of charge depending on the grid's demands. This allows for more stable power distribution, as only the necessary amount is used.

Grid operators are likely to observe these benefits as well, with the technology contributing to more efficient power service.

Does it have a future?

According to Navigant Research, yes it does. The firm has made bold claims for the future of the technology, predicting notable growth in the market. While not quite as significant as other electric car technologies, it plays an important supporting role, which will lead to an estimated value of US$68 million between 2015 and 2024. 

Navigant Research also stated that VGI will enable electric vehicle owners to recoup part of their investment if they're able to sell excess power back to grid - a similar arrangement to current solar projects. With environmental and financial benefits, the firm believes it's only a matter of time before they catch on. 

"Now that the market for PEVs [plug-in electric vehicles] has begun to solidify, with global sales surpassing 320,000 in 2014, pilots testing VGI technologies are emerging with greater frequency," said Research Analyst Scott Shepard.

"This is a key development for the VGI market because PEVs represent an increase in load that could be used to capture renewable electricity generation and help balance generation with demand, theoretically making electricity marginally cheaper and cleaner."

The University of Delaware discovered that some electric vehicles have a potential output of over 10 kilowatts, enough to power ten average houses. If this power can be harnessed and restored to the grid, residential and commercial sectors should both benefit.