Kia, Vehicle-To-Grid, and a Greener Tomorrow

6 Jul

Kia-Soul-EVIt’s easy to take the convenience and availability of electricity for granted. Whether you’re turning on a light or heating up leftovers, chances are you’ve grown accustomed to the instant, on-demand power that saves us from hardships like working in the dark and throwing away uneaten turkey.

In reality, the energy that runs our appliances, heats our buildings, and powers our society is far from limitless; there are over a billion people in the world without access to electricity, and as the population continues to grow, so too will the burden we put on our energy grid simply by going about our daily routines.

A great deal of research is dedicated to developing innovative energy solutions, and one such current effort is being assisted by a source that would have seemed unlikely a few years ago: Kia Motors.

Car companies don’t have the best track record for supporting new ideas for cleaning up the grid, but that tide has been turning steadily over the past few years. Carmakers have realized the benefits of positioning themselves as leaders in the journey toward a more sustainable future, and the constant tightening of federal emissions and fuel efficiency guidelines has helped push the industry in the right direction. Kia’s recent collaboration with the University of California, Irvine (UCI) is another important step in the automotive industry’s willingness to take a leading role in a critical field of research.

Kia Motors America announced in a press release last week that it is donating six Soul EV electric vehicles to UCI’s Advanced Power and Energy Program “to help develop and demonstrate Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) advanced smart charging software algorithms.”

V2G isn’t as complicated as it sounds. We rely on our energy grid for all sorts of life’s modern amenities, and our dependence seems to feed a false sense of our grid’s reliability. Power plants can be incapacitated for any number of reasons, from heatwaves to ice storms, and that leaves us at risk of blackouts. V2G technology allows us to use America’s growing fleet of electric vehicles to share the contents of their batteries with the power grid when not in use, and then get energy back from the grid during lower-use hours.

Since vehicles typically spend the vast majority of their time in park, an over-stressed power grid could potentially sap energy from EVs when it needs some extra juice, then fill EVs back up when the grid has an excess of electricity. The ability to add power to the grid during times of need from batteries that were charged during times when the grid was under less stress could be a huge innovation.

We have our fingers crossed that V2G technology will continue to move forward; it’s still too early to say, but there’s a good chance that sharing your car’s electricity with the grid will entitle you to a small monthly paycheck. If driving an EV lets us help out the environment, ease the strain on our community’s grid, and earns us a little paycheck as a cherry on top, you can sign us up!