Wednesday, March 13, 2013

This Week in EVville; Working For the Power Company

When the weather gets cold so does everything else including the battery in my LEAF, and like me it gets sluggish.  Like any star athlete who needs to warm up, my LEAF's battery is the same way. So a slower charge is expected.

Now, I am in the camp that believes that quick charging is best when charging the lower 2/3rds of the pack. The charge is quicker, less heat build up and more people are able to charge.  Case in point; On Monday, I swung by the Tumwater DCFC and there was a lady (Diane) from JBLM (joint base Lewis-McCord just south of Tacoma, WA)  charging. She was at 94% and had 5.9 Kwh so she was basically topping off.  I was not in a hurry so I was not upset but guessing someone who had a time schedule might be.  I dont know where she was going but in her case, L2 would have provided almost the same charging speed as she was getting. Now, she had only had her LEAF since October so maybe she did not know and I should have advised her but we got talking and she was a very motivated EV'er and adamantly stated several times she did not want to buy gas and the LEAF was her only vehicle and so I spaced it out... oh well

But back to topic!

So, my habit has been go to QC, plug in 7-15 minutes, then go. Frequently I that was all the time I had and other times, I simply didnt have the patience to sit there longer. But a few months ago, I noticed that I seemed to be getting less charge than I normally finished with. I had no hard numbers unfortunately. Just a hunch.

Now, the business owner at the Shell Station hosting the charger has been upset over how AV has been handling his account and I thought "well, maybe he throttled down the power?" but I had spent the weekend watching spy conspiracy movies and my head was in a weird place...

But anyway, Monday was a perfect day to test. I was at 21 GID or so, It was 42┬║. So I plugged in, cranked up the timer and tracked my Kwh times

1 Kwh...........81 seconds
2 Kwh...........84 seconds
3 Kwh...........95 seconds
4 Kwh...........103 seconds
5 Kwh...........107 Seconds

Ok, so my experiment did not provide a lot of data supporting my conspiracy. I also did this a few times in Summer where temps were in the mid to upper 70's and had a the first few Kwh as low as 75 seconds.  So guess maybe he had the charger turned back up!!

Want to make more money than you or your great great grandchildren (or your spouse at Macy's) could ever spend?  Then invent an effective power grid storage system.

Electricity has a huge advantage over gasoline. It can be generated a dozen different ways, can never be exhausted, can be scaled to nearly any size, is pervasive thru out our society and it runs our cars!

But it has an Achilles heel; a single drawback that allows fossil fuels to thrive and that is ineffective ways to store large quantities of it in areas where its needed.

In fact we have the ULTIMATE sin happening on a regular basis and that is shutting down ultra expensive emission free sources of power while other forms of power are allowed to run.  In WA State, when Wind generators are shut down, the host is still paid for the potential revenue (not the actual amount of power generated based on that periods wind speed) which is a huge hit on the PUD's budget.  (obtw; that "ultra expensive" part I got from my local oil company's report. they did not provide a reference link for that statement)

But what if an army of EVs were recruited to balance the grid?  How would that work?

Well, supposing you are at the EV store choosing colors and the salesman says "Sign up for Grid Balance, participate for 4 years and we will give you 15 Kwh for free"

You say "Free is in my price range!"  and with this, you get access to a charger at home and at a place convenient to your work all paid for by the PUD. Your only requirement is to set a mileage requirement you need. IOW, how much you plan to drive that day and plug in most of the time.  It could be that simple!

The two areas you spend nearly all your time is home and work. With your EV plugged in, the grid will either charge your car, or drain your car to manage grid demand.  Now, instead of maintaining large base load coal plants, a move to green sources is much more manageable.

Instead of managing several different accounts for a half dozen charging companies, your EV's net usage will be on your electric bill (over 99% of us have one)

Instead of paying several thousand dollars for range you might use 5-10 times a year, you have access to that range anytime you need it. Simply plug in that you need 150 miles that day or whatever and the grid will drain someone else's EV. After all, 98% of EVs will only be traveling locally that day so its not like they have to look far to replace you.

Cost to install will go down. Sure its expensive for US to install QC's and what not, but think of how much money it would cost if the PUD in conjunction with local government was running the show?  No permit fees, no OUTRAGEOUS power line upgrade fees. Even gassers would benefit (although very slightly)

But the real benefit is decentralizing the grid. It is pretty obvious that our next terrorist attack will be on a public infrastructure of sorts.  The internet today, tomorrow it will be a gasline, pipeline,  or the grid.  With grid access so prevalent, adequate protection is simply not possible.  A coordinated attack at a just a few key (usually very remote) power switching stations transmission lines is all that is needed to cause great havoc and huge expense.

Having grid power stored in 50 million EVs makes such an attack fruitless especially when in most cases, a large percentage of those vehicles could be tapped to cover the sudden loss.

Now I did not spike my coffee enough to not realize that such a project is a decade of dedicated partnership away from reality but the sooner we start, the sooner we stop paying the Piper.


  1. Dave, overall I like this one but there is a technical question/observation that remains. What would the "perpetual" draw/feed cycle do to the battery? Wouldn't this process impact the battery capacity in the world of 'duty cycle'?


  2. Tom; great question and we do need to keep in mind that the extra capacity you received was free of charge courtesy of the PUD. Another thing to keep in mind is that the discharge is currently in the hands of the owner, an owner that may or may not be discharging in the best way possible. The electric company controlling the charging stations can manage the flow of charge more efficiently and hopefully in a way that helps promote longevity.

    Another thing to keep in mind; using the "70%" rule where the weight/performance ratio means the battery is no longer useful as a EV battery means it can now be used as stationary storage somewhere else making the PUD's storage network that much bigger.