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Technology & Innovation

Driving Electric to Turn a Profit

As if gearheads did not already have reasons aplenty to hate electric vehicles, adding insult to injury, research suggests that electric cars might actually make a profit for their owners.

What’s the Latest Development?

The idea is called vehicle-to-grid: “If there were enough electric vehicles around, a fair number would be bound to be plugged in and recharging at any given time. Why not rig this idle fleet so that, when demand for electricity spikes, they stop drawing current from the grid and instead start pumping it back?” To test this novel idea, researchers at the University of Delaware have been running a fleet of seven electric cars linked up to its local electricity company’s servers by a wireless system that monitors their activity, in order to predict when each car is likely to be available as a power supply.

What’s the Big Idea?

Currently, many utility companies rely on generator power to outwit electricity shortages due to high use. If electricity grids were reversed engineered to allow utility companies to draw power from devices that are plugged into a socket—each electric car is essentially a battery holding substantial amounts of electric power—it would save on generator costs. This savings could then be passed on to electric car owners. Drs. Willett Kempton and Nathaniel Pearre of the University of Delaware think an income of $4,000 a year per car might be possible. “That is a sum far greater than the $225 that Nissan, for instance, thinks will be the average annual cost of the electricity needed to power one of its Leafs.”


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