Inventions Thomas Edison Would Love: Electric Vehicles Change the Grid

Get ready. That indispensable invention known as the car may transform the world yet again. We think of it as the prime reason for importing foreign oil and the chief polluter of our cities, but tomorrow, the car has the potential to clean the urban environment and provide clean electricity. Some engineers are already playing around the fringes of this futuristic and paradigm shifting dream. When battery-powered electric vehicles are sitting there parked, why not use some of that energy stored in their batteries to feed power back into the grid during peak load periods or when an emergency exists? This concept is already edging toward reality. The University of Delaware and the Ford Motor Company were two of the first to experiment with vehicle-to-grid transfer of electric energy. Pacific Gas and Electric and Excel, both electric utilities, are also early experimenters in this technology.

Inventions Edison Would Love: Electric Vehicles Change the Grid

Now the steroids … make cars able to generate electricity all the time! Equip them with clean “engines” like fuel cells and while they are parked, connect them to a source of hydrogen, like natural gas so as they sit in a parking lot, they pump out ultra clean electricity, straight into the electric grid. After they leave work and head home where the electric load shifts to, they can easily provide enough energy from their garage to a home, and still send much more back to the electric grid.

Do the math. The total electric power generation potential from all U.S. electric generating stations is about 900,000 MW [Megawatts – a megawatt is a million watts of power]. A fuel cell-powered car would have a 40 kW “engine”. If 25,000 cars had fuel cells in them, they would generate 1,000 MW of power, about the same electric output as a modern day nuclear reactor. Since there are over 200 million cars on the road, and every 25,000 of them can generate 1000 MW, we then have the result that all these cars equipped with fuel cells can generate 8,000,000 MW of power, or close to 10 times more than we need!

Honda FCX Clarity [fuel cell car]

Honda FCX Clarity (fuel cell car)

 Chevy Equinox [fuel cell car]

Chevy Equinox (fuel cell car)

Get the picture? In the future, folks could pay you to park your car in their parking lot, and buy the clean power your car can generate. In the future, anywhere you park your car, you can make money … maybe earn mall dollars at the shopping center that you can trade-in around the holidays for use at the stores there. Teachers’ cars can power the school they work in. Employee cars can power the place they work in … and so on and so on. Think about that car of yours and what it is capable of … Edison would have. Tomorrow’s car companies could merge with existing electric utility companies. Now there is a paradigm shift!

Editor’s Deep Drive

Thomas Edison on Time Magazine“To have a great idea, have a lot of them.”

Time ® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.

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