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Electric Vehicles: The future energy infrastructure will feed electricity back to the grid.

The main challenge facing manufactures of battery powered electric vehicles is that they are not as cheap, convenient and powerful as cars using petrol. An Israeli company, Better Place LLC, now based in Palo Alto California believe that they have solved the problem and are creating a market based transportation infrastructure that supports electric vehicles. Their first major deal was to tie up with Renault – Nissan who agreed that the key to success was a pricing policy that provided ‘battery time’ to a car owner in the same way as mobile phone operators sell ‘air time’. They also offer cars with instant torque delivering smooth acceleration and lower maintenance costs due to less moving parts than traditional vehicles.

In a landmark paper dated October 5, the founder and CEO, Shai Agassi explained the principle of V2G technology,

The solution does not stem from a more powerful battery. Rather we propose the creation of a ubiquitous infrastructure that can enable a car to automatically charge up its battery when parked, an on the exceptional long drive using an exchange staion where an empty battery is replaced. We look for the first time as the car battery as part of the infrastructure system, not part of the car, much like the SIM card inside a cell phone.. Since car owners do not own the battery, they can freely exchange it as needed, not fearing the issue of receiving an ‘older battery’ in exchange for a new one.

Taking the concept one step further, the cars and batteries can even feed back electricity to the grid ( in a process called V2G) used in cases of emergency thus flattening the demand curve without the need to build new generation capacity used for the rare 30 hours of peak demand witnessed by utilities every year’.

The company is now in talks building its first EV network in Israel and is testing its ideas in Denmark and Hawaii. It is also in talks with 25 regions around the world, and is now targeting China’s $15 billion electric car market and its $60 billion smart grid project.

In late April 2011, Better Place announced a cooperation agreement with Chinas second largest electricity utility, China Southern Power Grid Company Ltd, to open a battery switch station and joint education centre in Guangjou, a city of 10 million residents. Last year the Chinese government cited electric car development as one of seven strategic directions in its five – year plan to reduce the country’s dependent on oil imports. CSG is part of a consortium of 20 government companies set up to promote the electric car.

Other investors in V2G technology include Warren Buffett who invested $230 for a 10% stake in Chinese Electric car and battery manufacturer BYD Automobile Co Ltd which is now said to be worth $1.6 billion. BYD recently unveiled a 5 seat crossover with a range of 200 miles, and a 60 kilowatt/hour lithium-ion battery pack at the Detroit Auto Show.

Early legal difficulties include issues surrrounding the lack of engine noise, and unconfirmed reports of spontaneous combustion, either whilst charging at home or in use in a crowded street. For a full review of guidelines for Electric Vehicles in the smart grid see IEEE 2030.1 working group which deals with a review of exisiting standards and new standards required.

For legal advice or an informal discussion on Smart Grid or V2G issues, call Jeremy on: 0844 2722322



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