Charging stations for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) and electric vehicles (EV) will “fill their tanks” for free, and still make a profit. It sounds like a dream come true, but the development of this charging infrastructure, called Vehicle to Grid (V2G), is under way.
The concept behind V2G is swapping electricity between PHEVs/EVs, and the power grid. A V2G infrastructure capable of controlling the charging and discharging of massive quantities of PHEVs/EVs will make a significant contribution to the connection of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power to the grid.
And if that can be combined with a framework that yields value commensurate with the contribution, V2G would still yield a profit even after charging. V2G would seem to be the ultimate shape of the charging infrastructure, and simultaneously the trump card for hooking up renewable energy supplies.
The development of the charging infrastructure for V2G is forging ahead so rapidly because of the Smart Grid project being advanced in primarily the US: a power grid of enormous scale. In the Smart Grid envisaged in the US, the charging infrastructure will play a major role.
The success of the American IT industry, where a few companies with crucial platforms became key players in the market, has been a bitter lesson for many Japanese businesses. This time American industry has defined automobiles and home appliances as information terminals, but those are two critical pillars of the Japanese industry. This time, feel many in the field, failure is not an option for Japan.
Japanese companies hold the advantage in a number of constituent technologies, such as PHEVs, EVs, storage batteries and HEMS. They are refining them now, and determined to make a platform that will serve as an electric power information management system.
One Japanese firm aggressively pursuing the platform is Nissan Motor. The company announced plans to produce 50,000 “Leaf” EVs in fiscal 2010, providing them for verification testing of the charging infrastructure in the United States. Nissan is hoping to construct a charging infrastructure that will make it easier for automobile manufacturers to hold the reins.
Japanese universities and private enterprise are eager to extend their technical advantages. Toyota Industries Corp. of Japan, for example, which is working on the chargers for the Plug-in Prius PHEV being developed by Toyota, has developed a charging station with communication functions designed to collect charging and other information.
Mitsubishi Motors Corp. of Japan plans to make commercial EVs that can be charged and discharged under the V2G scheme by 2015. The Panasonic group of Japan is strong in power management for homes and automobiles, because it is involved in a wide range of constituent technologies that will be needed, including HEMS, charging stations and DC supply.
The competition for leadership in the charging infrastructure, and in V2G further in the future, has only just begun. There is ample opportunity for everyone, not just American firms already onsite.