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Electric Vehicles Could Rescue the Power Grid

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Charging an electric vehicle.

Bidirectional chargers are far from common today and can be expensive, often requiring additional specialized hardware. Yet automakers and other companies are starting to roll them out.

Credit: Getty Images

Last month, California finalized a rule that will ban the sale of new gas-powered cars, starting in 2035. Obviously, that'll accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles and encourage other states to do the same. (Oregon has already followed California's lead.) But less obviously, spurning carbon-spewing vehicles could help buttress the United States' ancient, creaky electrical grids.

Cars are no longer just modes of transportation; they are increasingly integrated into the larger energy infrastructure. If your EV is sitting in your garage fully charged (cars are typically parked 95 percent of the time) and you lose power, that big battery offers an opportunity to keep the lights on. And when there's a sudden spike in demand for the grid—because everyone wants to turn on their AC during a heat wave or their heat during a deep freeze—utilities could pay homeowners for their excess battery power.

This is known as bidirectional or vehicle-to-grid charging (aka V2G), and it's "one of the legitimate game changers," says Clifford Rechtschaffen, commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission. "If all the EVs in the state plug in during these peak load times and feed power back to the grid, they're acting as giant batteries. We could use them to greatly relieve stress on the grid during the periods of greatest need."

From Wired
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