Why EVs are so important to the future of the smart grid

Tools

By: SGN Staff

1

When I first read this guest editorial by a grid/EV integration specialist, I said "guilty as charged." I've often made the very mistake he talks about – namely, talking to consumers about the esoteric system benefits of grid-connected EVs. While failing to acknowledge their much larger, long-term impact. Which, as you will read below, has as much to do with emotional impact as it does with technical merits. You'll enjoy the read. - Jesse Berst

 

By Beaudry Kock

 

Glazed over.

 

That’s how most people’s eyes look once you ask why electric vehicle / smart grid interoperability is important. With a little prompting, most will repeat what smart grid advocates have been trumpeting for years: things like “grid balancing”, “peak shifting” and “ancillary services.”

 

Yet there’s a more important reason, something touching both grid-connected EVs and the long-term future of the smart grid. A reason you are unlikely to hear from either consumers or engineers.

 

How to get them interested again

“You know that shiny thermostat by the ex-Apple guys?” is how I usually rescue my friends from smart grid-induced narcolepsy. (I'm talking about the Nest thermostat, of course.) The rapidity with which people "get" smart grid once it’s put in terms of useful, attractive and engaging consumer products reflects how much of an internet-of-things society we’ve ended up with. We don’t have jetpacks, sure, but we can let our thermostats learn our habits rather than go through laborious time-setting.

 

In other words, the “smart things” that matter these days are those networked objects and applications which are reaching into the day-to-day and impressing us with their cleverness (think the Nest thermostat’s presence detection), helpfulness (such as Google Now’s uncanny ability to anticipate your every informational need), or sheer beauty of design (anything out of Elon Musk’s factories, it seems).

 

If we want smart grid to matter – and truly reach its potential – we must think in the same way. And here is where the connected EV comes in: it will be the most important smart grid-enabled appliance which most people will ever see and use every day. Even the Nest, with its gorgeous touch screen and sophisticated engineering, doesn’t have this kind of pull. It’s how most people will understand, appreciate and engage with the grid: the EV brings the nebulous “smart grid” home.