TIR’s pillars 5/5: Transitioning to electric, plug-in vehicles

According to Jeremy Rifkin, the last pillar of the third industrial revolution is the move to plug-in electric, hybrid, and fuel-cell transportation. What is it? It is the use of energy-efficient, eco-friendly vehicles that can be connected to the electric grid.

Plugging in the vehicle would enable it to recharge, which is known as Grid-to-Vehicle (G2V): energy produced by local power plants is transported on the grid and delivered to the vehicle. This is a quite classic aspect of the fifth pillar.

Its counterpart, Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G), is more innovative: the vehicle itself becomes a small power plant, selling its excess capacity to the grid. The point is: private vehicles are usually parked around 90-95% of the time. So why not tap into this waiting time to produce and/or exchange energy? There are many ways a pluggable vehicle can generate and distribute energy:

  • from storable fuel, be it conventional fossil fuel or biofuel and hydrogen,
  • from excessively rechargeable batteries,
  • from solar panels or cells (the technology has to become economically efficient for such small and curved surfaces before it can really grow in the commercial sector).

We could imagine private vehicles become complementary power plants, sustaining the electricity offer on peak load hours, and then recharging during the night, therfore helping in absorbing the excess production of night-time hours.

The whole idea is still rather young and the challenge is to find business models where using these technologies is economically viable. However, some are already existing and should be references to keep in mind, like Autolib’ in France.

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