Twenty years from now, when you’re driving your fuel cell vehicle, you may be able to earn money by plugging it into your city’s electrical grid when you’re not driving. That’s the promise of V2G technology, or vehicle-to-grid.
V2G technology takes advantage of the fact that gas/electric hybrid cars — and in the future, fuel cell hybrid vehicles — are power generation stations on wheels, and that power generation capability sits idle more than 90% of the time. By plugging vehicles back into the grid, and transferring power from the vehicles’ onboard battery into the city’s electrical grid, we could revolutionize both the utility of vehicles for personal transportation and the ability for cities to meet peak electrical demand without investing in expensive power stations.
Essentially, the promise of V2G is that of a distributed power generation network that can be tapped to supplement the already-existing power generation capability of any electrical grid. All of this may sound far-fetched, but in fact it’s coming to fruition right now. There are V2G fuel cell buses being used in Toronto, Daimler-Chrysler is working on a pickup truck with V2G capability, a city in Florida is reported to be purchasing 50 city buses that are V2G capable, and a company called AC Propulsion plans to make 1000 V2G electric vehicles starting next year.
It’s a new idea, and one that will take a lot of education and momentum to catch on. For one thing, there’s no place to plug your vehicle into the power grid today, and utility companies will naturally be quite wary of opening up their grid to power transmission from the public. But it also holds the promise to take advantage of the investment in power generation technology found in hybrid vehicles, while reducing the cost to run a city-wide power network generation and distribution system. This is great technology that’s just waiting for social acceptance.