Behind-the-wheel and behind-the-scenes on V2G and EVs

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By: Andy Bochman

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You know we try to keep it calm here, but what an incredible experience I just had!!! Just returned from a week in the Lone Star State speaking in Dallas and Houston, then back to Dallas again, the second time for the Electric Vehicle (EV) Showcase just around the corner from Big Tex. Man, was it worth the flight back to Love Field, and not just for the fried butter and fried beer.

On the first day I got to meet spokes-model (and true product expert) Alicia, then take the Volt (they had three on hand) for a spin on a curvy test track. I loved the way it looked, sounded and handled.

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A well-informed Chevrolet rep named Brian gave me plenty of good details before, during and after the drive, and I felt that many others like me will feel comfortable welcoming this car, that on most days will consume no gasoline, into their lives.

Now here are a few details from the Executive Panel on day two to give you a broader look at what's going on behind the scenes to pave the way for this (plug-in hybrid) electric car and others like it. A panel moderated by Texas PUC Chairman Barry Smitherman included leadership from GM, IBM, Texas transmission and distribution utility Oncor, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and construction firm Beck. Here are some highlights of what they discussed:

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·         EPRI is working three main focus areas at present: 1) understanding consumer attitudes and expectations re: EV's, 2) early preparation of EV charging infrastructure, and 3) ensuring adequate utility infrastructure, particularly distribution transformers.

·         Texas is one of the initial wave of seven states for Volt deliveries in late 2010, starting in Austin then fanning out from there. In 2011, expect to see Volts available for sale in all 50 states .

·         Oncor sees two critical EV roll-out success factors: 1) the practice of off-peak (night-time) charging, and 2) early (and I do mean early) notice to utility companies when an individual is considering the purchase of an EV.

·         IBM is all about the information layer surrounding EVs and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) infrastructure and is looking at it three ways: 1) knowing how much energy from renewable sources is available at any time, 2) how utilities can have access to enough right info to know how much they need to spend on infrastructure, and 3) market and business-related IT that helps consumers as much as possible, particularly enabling ease of use, as well as providing national standards running from the charging points to the cars to the utilities themselves

·         To help move 18 gigawatts of clean wind energy, the moderator noted that Texas is spending $5 billion to run high-voltage transmission lines hundreds of miles from windy west Texas to its cities.

·         Here's one I hadn't thought of before ... it's kind of subtle. According to EPRI, range anxiety is eased by the presence of charging stations outside the home and business, whether EV drivers use them or not.

·         The electricity required to go a full 40 miles in a Volt costs about $1.10.

·         Finally, the best part from national security as well as environmental/climate points of view: most Americans drive 20 or fewer miles per day. The great majority drive fewer than 40 miles on work days as well as weekends. When these folks drive Volts, they are going to be using gasoline only rarely. Think about what that means when the number of Volts, Volt 2.0s and other EVs hit the roads in the millions and tens of millions. 
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In keeping with this blog's security focus, are there going to be cyber security issues with these software-centric, wireless-enabled cars running on rapidly assembled IT and OT networks?  You bet, and we'll get to those soon. But for the time being, just wanted to note that it's a privilege to be alive at this moment, watching so many talented, creative, energetic and caring people pull out all the stops to help change our world in ways it sorely needs.

And I'll leave you with this nugget from a sign you pass upon entering the incredible Cowtown Diner in downtown Forth Worth:

     Never ask a man if he's from Texas.
     If he is, he's most likely already told you.
     If he's not, there's no use in embarrassing him

 

Andy Bochman and Jack Danahy are authors of the Smart Grid Security Blog.

 

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