Could electric vehicles provide reliable backup power to the electric grid?
Last November, the Air Force rolled out the federal government’s first fleet of plug-in and hybrid electric vehicles. Parked at Los Angeles Air Force Base (LA AFB) in El Segundo, Calif., about 20 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, the 42-vehicle fleet features 13 Nissan Leafs as well as Ford F-Series pickup trucks and a 12-passenger van among other electrified vehicles. For the Department of Defense, which manages more than 200,000 nontactical vehicles, switching to electric vehicles could provide serious fuel cost savings.
But this pilot project is about more than just decarbonizing the transportation sector.
This fleet is not just sucking electricity out of the grid, the electric cars can provide power back into it through something called “vehicle to grid” technology, or V2G. When plugged in, the electric vehicles (EVs) at LA AFB produce more than 700 kilowatts of electricity, or enough to power about 140 American households during a hot summer day. At this scale, the LA AFB pilot is the largest demonstration of V2G in the world.
“It opens up that in the future the utility could dispatch these connected vehicles as a distributed energy source,” said Michael Liu, North America regional manager for energy storage with BYD America Corp.