Honda experimenting with UD’s ‘vehicle to grid’ technology

Honda

Honda is joining the vehicle-to-grid initiative that allows electric cars to put power back onto the grid. / JENNIFER CORBETT/THE NEWS JOURNAL

A major automobile manufacturer has signed on with University of Delaware researchers to test their technology that helps guide power back onto the electric grid from idle vehicles.

If the test is successful, Honda could someday use the university’s technology in its production of electric vehicles – and perhaps encourage other manufacturers to adopt the technology.

The UD’s “vehicle to grid,” or V2G, program not only allows vehicles to get a charge from the grid, but also lets the cars’ owners get paid for sending electricity back in the other direction. In doing so, it helps the grid’s manager, PJM Interconnection, keep power lines operating smoothly.

The research program features cars with batteries that, when at rest, act like energy storage devices. They absorb excess power from the grid when necessary, and send it back when the grid demands it. The grid requires a consistent flow of electricity, especially in the age of fluctuating renewable power sources like wind and solar, researchers say.

But in order to make the technology a success, automakers must first adopt it for use in their vehicles.

Honda already has the ability to send power to and from a prototype Accord plug-in hybrid, but it’s seeking help in finding ways to communicate with the broader electric grid.

Honda contacted the UD program early this year to evaluate the benefits of using UD’s technology to communicate with PJM, said Willett Kempton, research director of the UD’s Center for Carbon-Free Integration. Kempton is the person who came up with the idea for sending electricity back onto the grid. PJM manages the grid in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

An Accord has been used at the school in recent weeks, and “the car responds great to the PJM system,” Kempton said.

“It is a big step toward a future with widespread availability of the technology to have Honda join our demonstration with their V2G-capable car,” Kempton said.

Researchers and Honda will continue to collaborate for longer-term testing in conjunction with the grid, Kempton said. It’s up to Honda if that company wants to put it in a mass-produced vehicle, in which case UD would grant the manufacturer a license to use its technology, Kempton said.

“This technology has the potential to support both a cleaner and more efficient power grid and a more positive ownership experience” for electric vehicle customers, said Steven Center, vice president of the Environmental Business Development Office of American Honda Motor Co.

The technology to send power in two directions is new, said Marcos Frommer, a spokesman for Honda. There are technical and regulatory obstacles that need to be overcome, but eventually they envision using it in electric vehicles offered for sale, Frommer said.

UD already is working with BMW, which has provided vehicles for the research program, and has a representative in Delaware as part of the program, Kempton said. Unlike Honda, BMW has not developed its own two-way electric charging system that could be used in a mass-production car, Kempton said.

The research program, at the UD’s Science, Technology and Advanced Research Campus, already is being supported by NRG Energy.

Contact Aaron Nathans at (302) 324-2786 or anathans@delawareonline.com.