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Six Electric Cars Can Power an Office Building

timothy posted about 4 months ago | from the sinks-and-sources dept.

Japan 296

cartechboy writes "How many Nissan Leafs does it take to power an office building? The answer, it turns out, is six. Nissan is the latest Japanese automaker to explore electric "vehicle-to-building" setups, this time with impressive results. The company started testing its latest system at the Nissan Advanced Technology Center in Atsugi City, Japan, during the summer. It found that just six Leafs plugged in to the building's power supply allowed it to cut peak-hour electricity use by 2 percent. Annualized, that's a savings of half a million yen (about $4,800 US) in electricity costs. How it works: The building pulls electricity from the plugged-in vehicles during peak-use hours, when power is most expensive, and then sends the power back to recharge the cars when grid prices fall. Nissan says the system is set up to ensure the cars are fully charged by the end of the workday. (Is this a devious secret way to make sure workers stay until a certain time?) Next up: Why not just do this using batteries--never mind the cars?"

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296 comments

Why not batteries (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45671897)

The batteries in a Leaf are a significant fraction of the price, few business want to spend $120k on batteries, when they can get them for 'free' from their workers.

Re:Why not batteries (4, Insightful)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 4 months ago | (#45672005)

few business want to spend $120k on batteries.

I wonder how much power they would save by investing $120K in energy efficiency improvements? My guess in >2%

Re:Why not batteries (5, Insightful)

VernonNemitz (581327) | about 4 months ago | (#45672069)

Not to mention the well-known fact that batteries have a limited number of discharge/recharge cycles. So, when the batteries in the cars eventually fail, the car-owners have to pay to replace them, not the building-owners.

Re:Why not batteries (3, Interesting)

bondsbw (888959) | about 4 months ago | (#45672429)

If the car owner does all charging at the office, the cost of electricity would offset at least some of the cost of replacing the batteries. But I don't know that it would be worth it. This blog post [blogspot.com] suggests that the average cost per month of electricity is less than $50 for fairly average use, but the battery replacement program for the Leaf is $100 per month [autoblog.com].

Then again, the car owner would have to replace their battery after so much usage anyway regardless of where it is being charged, so assuming the employer's usage causes about twice as many recharge cycles, the employee might just break even.

Meanwhile the business gets a win by fully charging the cars when at non-peak usage, say around $0.05/KWH, and fully discharging during peak usage, say around $0.45/KWH, even if they have to supply twice as much energy to the cars as they use to power the office. (I pulled those $/KWH numbers from a post below; I have no clue if they are legitimate.)

I probably wouldn't participate in this program unless the employer provided a bonus incentive.

Re:Why not batteries (3, Interesting)

bob_super (3391281) | about 4 months ago | (#45672519)

They just need to use the Renault clone of the Nissan. You get the same battery but the car owner leases it from Renault, so they are the ones stuck with the cost extra failing batteries (and will certainly not pass it down to customers, right...).

Re:Why not batteries (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about 4 months ago | (#45672141)

Why shouldn't the workers get a tidy bonus for providing an extra service to their employer? Electric cars mean having a nice battery pack travel with you wherever you go.

Re:Why not batteries (4, Insightful)

TheCarp (96830) | about 4 months ago | (#45672263)

well the problem, of course, is that the savings were less than 5k/year. That is less than 1k/year/car

This doesn't leave much room to both benefit the company and provide much bonus before you even figure that this may decrease battery life span. Of course, it also has to be offset by the fact that its also a "top off", presumably the cars drove in, so are not fully charged at the start of the day.

Maybe it works out, but its not a lot to work with for starters.

Re:Why not batteries (0)

davester666 (731373) | about 4 months ago | (#45672287)

hahahahaha. You must be new here. bonuses are for management. you are lucky to even be permitted to enter the building.

Re:Why not batteries (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45672407)

Heh. You must be new, period.

Bonuses are for cronies and irreplaceables. If they want me to stay home, I will. Heck, I might do it anyway. They'll pay me either way. And for those that are replaceable, well, you're basically just renting your job. Get better at it or find a different line of work. Or get used to renting your job.

Your continued occupancy on my lawn is unwanted and is about to become trespassing. Fix that before something bad happens to you.

Re:irreplaceable (2)

presidenteloco (659168) | about 4 months ago | (#45672613)

So let me guess, you're one of those "IT bridge trolls" who build and hide in indecipherable structures and hoard troves of secret passwords, holding their organization for ransom, and mumbling and grumbling to themselves.
While thinking they're pretty damn good at their job, they are actually a worst nightmare scenario waiting to happen.

Re:Why not batteries (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45672465)

They do –they get their car charged for free.

Re:Why not batteries (3, Insightful)

Shoten (260439) | about 4 months ago | (#45672159)

The batteries in a Leaf are a significant fraction of the price, few business want to spend $120k on batteries, when they can get them for 'free' from their workers.

The cost of the batteries is small in comparison to maintenance. Managing the batteries means hiring someone with that knowledge or paying for training/other development to get it in-house...at which point, those people would become more desirable on the job market as more buildings installed battery systems, increasing cost of retaining that talent. Then there are the business processes that need to be developed, the provisioning of a room to store them (and OSHA/building code concerns around a room full of batteries, which is no minor thing), and so on.

Or, they can just use the cars parked outside, offloading all of that effort to the owners of the cars.

Re:Why not batteries (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 4 months ago | (#45672329)

The batteries in a Leaf are a significant fraction of the price, few business want to spend $120k on batteries, when they can get them for 'free' from their workers.

The cost of the batteries is small in comparison to maintenance. Managing the batteries means hiring someone with that knowledge or paying for training/other development to get it in-house...at which point, those people would become more desirable on the job market as more buildings installed battery systems, increasing cost of retaining that talent. Then there are the business processes that need to be developed, the provisioning of a room to store them (and OSHA/building code concerns around a room full of batteries, which is no minor thing), and so on.

Or, they can just use the cars parked outside, offloading all of that effort to the owners of the cars.

When the company sanctions plugging into the companies grid, the maintenance and potential OSHA violations that go along with the cars is now their responsibility as well.

The company ends up with more responsibility, not less, because now they have to make sure your car isn't going to be any more of a risk since its powering the building ... and that you've made sure to take proper care so that it doesn't explode when I walk by. And yes, LiPo's explode.

Re:Why not batteries (1)

daem0n1x (748565) | about 4 months ago | (#45672369)

Managing the batteries means hiring someone with that knowledge or paying for training/other development to get it in-house...at which point, those people would become more desirable on the job market as more buildings installed battery systems, increasing cost of retaining that talent.

Oh my god! People! How I hate them! Always in the way of making good money. We should kill everybody in the world and just become ultra-rich. Oh, wait...

Re:Why not batteries (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 4 months ago | (#45672437)

offloading all of that effort to the owners of the cars.

And eliminating a good deal of it, too.

The owners aren't going to be doing the engineering to safely house the batteries, nor will they be installing the monitor system to detect problems, nor becoming experts in the maintenance and electrical construction of battery systems. That's all been done already by the vehicle manufacturer, and the work has been paid for whether or not the company uses the batteries.

What's offloaded to owners is the cost of consumables, like the charge/discharge cycles mentioned here several times already. Then it's a question of whether the trade is mutually-beneficial. If six cars saves the company $4600, the company can pay the owners about $700 each year for about 250 recharge cycles. With that in mind, the cost of batteries (which I don't know offhand) and the lifetime in cycles (also unknown to me) will determine whether that's a fair trade. Sharing resources to reduce expenses might just end up being mutually profitable.

Billing? (1)

Bugler412 (2610815) | about 4 months ago | (#45671901)

I presume that users will be reimbursed for power they "brought from home" if the net energy movement is to the building over the course of a day?

Re:Billing? (2, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 4 months ago | (#45671923)

Those 'users' should be thankful that the company deigns to employ their lazy asses, and don't you forget it!

Now get off slashdot and back to work.

Re:Billing? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45671951)

Also for the wear and tear on the batteries caused by the additional charge/discharge cycles. Batteries can only handle a limited number of cycles so this'll shorten their life. Those batteries aren't cheap either.

Re:Billing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45671967)

Since they use energy to drive to work the battery will not be fully charged in the morning. The summary says that the battery will be fully charged at the end of the workday. The trade appears to be that the company charges the battery and in return they get to use the battery during peak hours.

Company cars (5, Insightful)

TWX (665546) | about 4 months ago | (#45672055)

I don't think it's intended for rank-and-file workers to supplement the company's electricity, it's probably more that higher-ranking employees with company cars would end up doing this.

If work gave me a car to use for several years, I don't think that the negligible electrical costs that I might incur at home would be enough to make me bat an eye at such an arrangement.

Re:Company cars (1)

pepty (1976012) | about 4 months ago | (#45672245)

In the US higher ups would be driving $100K Teslas, not Leafs. I'll make 2 guesses: 1. Tesla and other manufacturers would "adjust" the warranties for cars that are used to power buildings; Tesla would probably disallow their guaranteed buyback price as well. Most working age plug-in electric buyers know enough about battery cycling and wear that they would push back against a policy that effectively doubles the wear rate of their batteries, or at least find a software hack that would limit the energy drain severely.

Screw that. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45671905)

This sounds like it would decrease the battery lifetime of my car. Unless I'm getting free charging, no dice.

Re:Screw that. (3, Insightful)

grmoc (57943) | about 4 months ago | (#45672083)

Yes, and if the batteries are a significant part of the price of the car (true today), this is potentially moving significant expense to the car's owner.

Electric cars are impressive power houses (4, Informative)

ZorinLynx (31751) | about 4 months ago | (#45671911)

A Tesla Model S sitting in a garage has enough energy onboard to run a typical single family home for many days. It's pretty impressive just how much energy our automobiles use when we're driving them; they put the power consumption of homes and small buildings completely to shame.

Re:Electric cars are impressive power houses (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45671983)

Or to put it another way how little energy most things need. You don't need tons of power unless you're trying to heat somewhere or move heavy things.

Re:Electric cars are impressive power houses (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45672021)

100 kWh can get you from NYC to Philadelphia. Or power your house for three days.

Re:Electric cars are impressive power houses (3, Interesting)

TWX (665546) | about 4 months ago | (#45672031)

This is why I've considered putting a generator head on the PTO of a Dodge/Cummins truck. Damn near idling the truck would produce enough power to keep the whole house running during power outages.

I've also considered building a battery room if I ever put solar on the house. Even running HVAC equipment it's doable.

Re:Electric cars are impressive power houses (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 4 months ago | (#45672253)

Damn near idling the truck would produce enough power to keep the whole house running during power outages.

In that case the truck's engine is too big and you'd get better efficiency running the engine of a smaller car at a higher speed. Alas, VW 2.0L diesels don't have power take-offs, as far as I know.

Re:Electric cars are impressive power houses (2)

mythosaz (572040) | about 4 months ago | (#45672483)

A Tesla Model S sitting in a garage has enough energy onboard to run a typical single family home for many days.

You *can't* be right.

It costs about $5 in electricity to get 200 miles out of a Tesla.

How many days straight do you think you can power my air conditioning from $5 worth of electricity?

You might be able to keep my lights on and power my appliances, but there's no way on this planet you can heat or cool my home for three days on $5 worth of electricity.

Check that title (3)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 4 months ago | (#45671921)

Looks like 6 cars can offset about 2% of this office's power usage. Hardly 'powering' the whole office.

Re:Check that title (5, Informative)

pla (258480) | about 4 months ago | (#45672053)

Looks like 6 cars can offset about 2% of this office's power usage. Hardly 'powering' the whole office.

You misunderstand - Businesses don't pay for electricity like residential users. They pay by usage per demand timeslot. So they may pay a rate of $0.05/KWH for 80% of the day, $0.12/KWH for another 18%, then for the remaining 2% (around 15 minutes) that shoots up to $0.45/KWH.

This study found that you can run the entire building for those 15 peak demand minutes on six cars. Those 15 minutes amounts to way more than 2% of the business' electric bill (more like 10-15%), however, thus the huge net savings.

Re:Check that title (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 4 months ago | (#45672171)

OK, that makes a bit more sense, but using that explanation (although I don't see your 15 minutes in the article), you could also say 1 car can power the building for 2 minutes. Its still hardly 'powering the building' in the sense most would interpret it.

Re:Check that title (3, Insightful)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 4 months ago | (#45672187)

Also, remember these power rates in Japan are much higher than most other places, so the economics don't universally apply.

cut peak-hour electricity use by 2 percent (4, Informative)

Saethan (2725367) | about 4 months ago | (#45671931)

How many Nissan Leafs does it take to power an office building? The answer, it turns out, is six.

cut peak-hour electricity use by 2 percent

So the answer, it turns out, is actually 300.

Re:cut peak-hour electricity use by 2 percent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45672149)

Go easy on the reporter, he's just a journalist.

Re:cut peak-hour electricity use by 2 percent (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 4 months ago | (#45672155)

I haven't read TFA, but someone else posted that 6 ran the entire building for 2% of the peak day. So 6 can run the entire building, but not for long.

Re:cut peak-hour electricity use by 2 percent (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 4 months ago | (#45672235)

Hey, my laptop could power the whole building! (For ten seconds or so. Before it exploded.)

Re:cut peak-hour electricity use by 2 percent (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 4 months ago | (#45672543)

No, it couldn't. The amp draw would be sufficient that it would fail. The cars can power the building for a long enough time to make a measurable difference to the building power cost, and recharge the cars to be at full capacity by quitting time.

Re:cut peak-hour electricity use by 2 percent (1)

bob_super (3391281) | about 4 months ago | (#45672563)

I want to see you run that experiment, because I'm wondering if the connector will melt before the battery explodes, or if you're just going to current-limit harmlessly.

This will reduce the lifespan of the batteries (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45671937)

It's hard to store electricity.
That is why buildings don't do this using regular batteries.

Re:This will reduce the lifespan of the batteries (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 4 months ago | (#45672271)

I also wonder how big role the inefficiencies of the batteries play. I mean, you don't get the same energy out that you put into them.

Externalizing the cost of maintenance (2)

pla (258480) | about 4 months ago | (#45671955)

Next up: Why not just do this using batteries--never mind the cars?"

Simple answer: It costs a decent amount of money to buy and maintain a large battery array. Anyone in charge of a medium sized corporate server room can attest to that.

By "letting" workers plug in their electric vehicles, the company not only gets to bill it as a perk of the job, but they get to push 100% of the expense of maintaining those batteries onto their workers.

TLDR: Money.

Re:Externalizing the cost of maintenance (3, Insightful)

ottothecow (600101) | about 4 months ago | (#45671995)

I would take the expense of maintaining my vehicle and getting to plug it in at work (with a guaranteed charge at end of day) any day over the prospect of having my car searched and being arrested for plugging it in to an available outlet.

Re:Externalizing the cost of maintenance (1)

pr0fessor (1940368) | about 4 months ago | (#45672057)

Wouldn't this just change the hours when peak usage occurs and result in the power company expanding peak hour charges or increasing the charges across the board?

Re:Externalizing the cost of maintenance (1)

pla (258480) | about 4 months ago | (#45672117)

Wouldn't this just change the hours when peak usage occurs and result in the power company expanding peak hour charges or increasing the charges across the board?

Not really - In fact, it could potentially eliminate having an actual peak period if enough companies did it, by smoothing the demand curve out over a much longer period of time.

Re:Externalizing the cost of maintenance (1)

pr0fessor (1940368) | about 4 months ago | (#45672305)

I would imagine that in order to maintain profit margin there would be a small overall increase in price if peak charges where eliminated. Would that equate to a larger bill I don't know.

That's great, except when you need it. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45672251)

If I'm running a datacenter, the REASON I want a large battery array (i.e. a UPS) is to keep my gear running in the event of a power outage. For a transient power outage, a RAIL (Redundant Array of Independent Leafs) is a great solution. For an extended power outage, however, PEOPLE GO HOME.

Using a RAIL as your main battery resource will get you through the initial cut, and last you long enough to get the generator up. But when the mains power is back on several hours later, you're screwed in making the transition back off the generator unless the cars are still sitting there. Which they won't be.

Re:Externalizing the cost of maintenance (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about 4 months ago | (#45672523)

Annual savings 5k cost of 6 battery packs about 72-180 k (Telsa S 12k battery in the future buy now vs insurance replacement cost). In other words if they had to buy the battery packs it would cost them 7-18k a year for an average 10 year life span. Deep discharge lead acids would be cheaper but you get the point.

All in all lots of battery packs getting plugged into the grid has some interesting potentials. Nearly of them them require more intelligence than whats available and pricing the more closely models costs.

Re:Externalizing the cost of maintenance (1)

bob_super (3391281) | about 4 months ago | (#45672599)

I don't know about Japan, but in Europe it's common for leased cars to be a job perk.
So the company may use the cars that they are already paying for (leasing only, no battery replacement problem) to save money when these employees are in the office.

Why not just do this using batteries? (3, Insightful)

tftp (111690) | about 4 months ago | (#45671969)

"Why not just do this using batteries--never mind the cars?"

Batteries have a limited number of recharge cycles, and they are very expensive (1/3 to 1/2 of the cost of the vehicle.) It's much easier to stick those expenses to the employees.

Other than that, yes, it would make a lot of sense to use stationary batteries. They wouldn't have to be light and small, for one. However it remains to be seen if the saved 2% is enough to pay for all the equipment.

Re:Why not just do this using batteries? (1)

N1AK (864906) | about 4 months ago | (#45672229)

In the UK we have energy tariffs called econ 7 for homes as an option. Basically instead of having 1 rate you get charged less for using power for a window overnight and more the rest of the day. It's hard to move power use from daytime to early morning but I've always wondered whether, given the 50% odd discount, whether it could be cost effective to fit a battery that charged overnight and then discharged during the day...

Re:Why not just do this using batteries? (1)

tftp (111690) | about 4 months ago | (#45672401)

It's a good idea, but you don't use batteries for this. They are horrible. The charging losses will be greater than your savings; the batteries wear out; they are ecologically harmful to produce and to recycle, and they are expensive. There are industrial setups that achieve the same goal. They often use reversible motor-generators that pump water uphill during the night and produce energy during the day. Water does not wear out, so the only replaceable part in this setup is the bearings of the propeller (or whatever they use to move the water.) Such a setup is often found in a solar power plant that has to deliver power 24/7.

Re:Why not just do this using batteries? (2)

Speare (84249) | about 4 months ago | (#45672353)

The point of "power from vehicles" was for use in emergencies. The concept was first in the mainstream press after Fukushima wiped out a massive area of infrastructure. A hurricane in the Philippines is similar. If you can't get the car out of the local village to go get a working gas generator and gas to run it, then just use the car itself to keep your family from freezing.

So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45671985)

I can power the entire solar system with a single AAA battery.

Re:So what? (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 4 months ago | (#45672291)

Hmm...not necessarily. While your catch obviously is "...but not for a very long time", there is simply not enough electrons in one battery to cover the entire solar system even for an extremely short time.

Super Capacitors (3, Interesting)

TrentTheThief (118302) | about 4 months ago | (#45671999)

The idea to store all excess electricity is already being investigated. But they're planning to use super capacitors rather than batteries. The idea to buy it cheap at night and sell it back to the grid during the day when theoretically, your consumption is lower (not at home, etc.) is too good not to be exploited.

Using cars not just batteries (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45672019)

Summary says

Why not just do this using batteries--never mind the cars?

Economics and cost sharing. If the process was done with batteries alone rather than battery-powered cars, the building owner would have to pay for the batteries. That's enough to make it uneconomic. By using the Nissan Leaf cars, the building owner gets the employees/car-owners to donate use of the batteries that the car owner has already paid for. The building owner saves money by shifting consumption to the lower-priced rate times, and in return eats the cost of building the charging hookups for the Nissan owners. Building owner saves money, car owners get free charging ports, the electric company gets a more time-balanced load. Even Nissan, maker of the cars, wins. Is there a downside to this?

captha: defraud

Re:Using cars not just batteries (2)

slashbart (316113) | about 4 months ago | (#45672151)

> Is there a downside to this?
Duh, battery life is almost exclusively charge/discharge cycles, so the office building is putting very significant costs onto the car owners.

Free infrastructure for the companies (1)

OzPeter (195038) | about 4 months ago | (#45672027)

Its like super sized BYOD except in this case it is bring your own load flattening system.

The company is only saving money on its power bill because its employees are freely lending them the hardware that they invested their own money in.

Not only that the company is not even paying depreciation on the reduced number of battery charge cycles the employees will see.

What they really need to study... (1)

Yergle143 (848772) | about 4 months ago | (#45672029)

...is how many Nissan Leafs it takes to power an array of Nuclear reactor cooling pumps just in case of a Tsunami, Earthquake, Volcano, Mothra, Gamera or a Howls Moving Castle incident.

And the battery wear? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 4 months ago | (#45672035)

Are batteries (of the sort light and energy-dense enough to put in cars) sufficiently resistant to wear that this sort of cycling doesn't get rather expensive? The Li-ions die even faster than usual if repeatedly charge-cycled. Is NiMH better on that score?

(Also, given charge/discharge inefficiencies, is the delta between on and off peak really high enough to justify that sort of thing?

Re:And the battery wear? (1)

SecurityTheatre (2427858) | about 4 months ago | (#45672153)

In short, no, this is a silly publicity stunt.

Batteries in cars are optimized for weight and cost at a moderate level of normal power draw. They are not optimized for powering buildings.

This is silly.

Re:And the battery wear? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 4 months ago | (#45672239)

My skepticism is heightened by the fact that good old Lead-Acid is crazy cheap compared to the classy stuff light enough for cars, (plus expertise in the care and feeding of large battery banks isn't exactly hard to come by in telco, datacenter, and solar-power sectors), and I've never heard of anybody using those for peak/off-peak optimization, even if they have them anyway for backup during power cuts.

I might blame mere stodgy conservatism, except that on-peak/off-peak and capacity optimization in heating and cooling systems (eg. small chiller runs all night, gradually freezing a big brine tank in the basement, chilled brine is tapped for cooling all day instead of having a big chiller capable of keeping up with solar heating and occupant/hardware generated heat running full bore during work hours, various schemes for absorbing, storing, and slowly re-radiating solar heat in colder locations) is something that has been explored, and not just in fancy uneconomic tech-demos, in newish buildings. Retrofitting the old, pre-oil-shock building stock isn't always worth it; but the numbers often add up for new builds. If the same thing could be done for power, I would have assumed that somebody would have tried it.

Re:And the battery wear? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45672197)

This. You want to keep battery wear to the minimum, especially for transfers not designed specifically for the car. The biggest expense in an electric car is its batteries which do need to be replaced occasionally. This is why a lot of people look to hydrogen because hydrogen only needs a pressurized tank(of the right materials). A pressurized tank is going to be cheaper than batteries when mass produced, and won't need to be replaced.

Re:And the battery wear? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45672333)

NiMH don't have a true memory like Li-Ion. They can be charged and discharged thousands of times with no loss. They do have a more limited lifespan, and suffer cell fatigue, where the cells store less and less. Li-Poly batteries have the benefits of both, but have issues of deep discharge causing cells to die, as well as potential issues with heat and swelling (preventing them from becoming more mainstream).

Look for this in Arizona (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45672061)

Arizona is the first state, but it won't be the last, to pass ALEC-inspired laws to crack down on homeowners putting up their own solar panels. "Net Pricing" is the current standard, if you are generating more power than you are using, you can sell it back to the utility at a reasonable price; then buy power back when you need it. This horrifies the utilities (at least in Arizona) so they were looking to shut it down. The final result [prwatch.org] was that they are charging the homeowners to sell their power back to the grid.

If you have a big set of batteries sitting in your garage, it would make more sense to charge them up during the day; and not go for net pricing. Those batteries can store a lot of juice.

BTDT (1)

nojayuk (567177) | about 4 months ago | (#45672075)

"Next up: Why not just do this using batteries--never mind the cars?"

NGK make large storage batteries and they use their own products to power an office complex in Japan, doing just what the article suggests by storing overnight lower-cost electricity in a large battery pack [ngk.co.jp].

Apparently it two weeks for the resulting fire to be extinguished.

NGK have sold a bunch of these batteries around the world, including to support wind power [shetlandtimes.co.uk] in the Shetland Isles in Scotland.

Positioning such a battery a couple of metres from a 3,800 tonne fuel-oil tank was probably not a good idea...

Scale (1)

x0ra (1249540) | about 4 months ago | (#45672089)

This will only works on a small scale. Variation in electricity pricing is not a stable situation and will likely evolve once enough people are practicing this. It might be fun to end up in a high-frequency switching similar to the current high-frequency trading practiced by financial institution.

Re:Scale (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45672297)

This will only works on a small scale. Variation in electricity pricing is not a stable situation and will likely evolve once enough people are practicing this. It might be fun to end up in a high-frequency switching similar to the current high-frequency trading practiced by financial institution.

True but the most likely outcome is a much more stable demand curve for electricity with decentralized storage and load balancing. Equilibrium being a point where the difference in peek costs vs base-line costs is just barely high enough to justify using such a system.

That would enable less reliable powers sources like solar to become more useful as the grid can rely on the energy collected being stored for when it's needed, and powers sources that have slow startup times like nuclear to be relied on more because both the magnitude of demand shift is smaller and the grid has some buffering capacity to cover the time it takes to bring a nuke up from idle to max capacity.

This looks like one of those rare cases where the selfish actions of individuals have cumulative positive externalities.

Edge Use Cases (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about 4 months ago | (#45672107)

[Insert standard Slashdot edge use cases explaining why THIS WILL NEVER WORK IN ANY CIRCUMSTANCE here.]

Remember, on Slashdot, perfect is, and must always be, the enemy of good.

Re:Edge Use Cases (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 4 months ago | (#45672347)

Actually in this case it would be more interesting to flip that argument and find the edge cases in which this idea works and is viable.

Anyone?

Interesting trade-off (2)

slinches (1540051) | about 4 months ago | (#45672127)

The company gets to benefit from the flattened power demand and the employees get to charge their cars. Seems like a win-win to me. The additional wear on the batteries is likely minimal considering that there will probably be many more than 6 electric cars in the lot.

I doubt $4800/yr in electricity cost savings will fully offset the charger installation and maintenance costs, but it could be close enough that it can be justified as a marketing tool or as a perk to draw employees.

Interesting idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45672169)

Clever idea. Might as well use the energy storage of your car when it's not in use.

Makes me wonder. If we ever get cheap, reliable, safe electrical energy storage we could put in every home we really good add a lot of flexibility and elasticity to the power grid. Imagine your house had enough storage to power your household for a couple of days, maybe fill the electric car up once or twice.

You could put solar panels on your roof and fill it yourself. The power grid could easier deliver power from sources that only work at certian times of the day. Power form solar and wind could be delivered as it's produced. Grid outages would be less serious. Power delivery could happen on staggered schedules. It could solve a lot of problems and pave the way to make energy distribution easy for EVs

A tank of diesel + generator would work too (1, Insightful)

mveloso (325617) | about 4 months ago | (#45672199)

Stream that diesel from your car/truck's gas tank into the generator's gas tank, and you're all set.

Waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45672207)

Energy companies CANNOT be gamed. If their customer base were to switch to battery storage of off-peak power, the prices would be adjusted to reacquire previous levels of profit. And in this practise, energy companies are fully backed by their national governments, and the laws passed by those governments.

As a for example, this year, people have been shocked to discover that many European nations have created laws where citizens and corporations are massively taxed for off-grid energy generation/use (like solar), justified solely on the basis that the large power companies MUST have their profitability maintained, and that UN initiatives designed to drive down the use of power by the ordinary sheeple in the West must be obeyed at all costs.

Or, take the UK. Food and energy costs are rocketing, as initiatives put in place by Tony Blair begin to bite hard. The sheeple in the UK are constantly told that the 'privatised' energy companies are responsible for the price hikes, but this is a complete lie. Blair, using the excuse of 'global warming' garbage, placed people in control of the energy companies, AND the regulatory bodies that specifically see outrageous energy prices as the best method of lowering per capita energy use.

In reality, Blair knows that a populace under constant 'attack' suffers a massive lowering of its 'immune' system, allowing such a population to be more easily manipulated into passively supporting Blair's war mongering across the globe. You are less likely to be anti-war, so the thinking goes, if your major concern is being able to feed and warm your self and your family.

Brits don't have the option of viable off-the-grid energy production, but much of sunny Europe is very different. The sheeple though that green propaganda told them that using things like solar was 'good' for the environment. Thus, Europeans have been shocked at the crack down against cheap solar options, and how their governments, quoting the UN, have happily told them that no matter how they access the energy, they WILL be paying a standard price for each Watt consumed.

In the greater sense, did any of you ever think you would be given the option of 'opting out'? This really isn't how modern societies operate, even when monsters like Blair are not interfering. The principle of 'the greater good' is always hiding around the corner waiting to bite you. Remember when nuclear propagandists promised 'free' electrical power? Those that rule over you need you dependent, not 'free'. You must 'feel' the connection to their systems in your daily lives, and in every major sense be subservient to their systems.

Vanishing rarely, something like the Internet arises to challenge this system, and we can watch, in real time, how the elites attempt to regain control in this new phenomenon. But for existing systems, the elites are determined to never allow changes that would undermine their control.

Re:Waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45672515)

That only applies if you are dumb/british! America is Super Power and We will have more solar then germany and china combined!

Power companies need to think bigger. (1)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about 4 months ago | (#45672211)

Take an autonomous-driving system with enough of the bugs worked out. Put it in a semi cab, pulling a trailer full of batteries. Build fleets of them.

Every morning, they filter into the city, tethering themselves to various load-transfer facilities. All through the day, they help to level out demand peaks.

At night, they filter out, and flock around whatever generating plants are hardest to throttle up and down -- hydro, nuke, whatever -- and refill themselves.

What battery price/performance levels would we have to hit to make this more attractive than building more peak capacity and power lines? Would it ever make sense to do it this way, instead of having static battery farms (and additional line capacity into the city)?

Change in supply/demand in the future? (2)

crow (16139) | about 4 months ago | (#45672213)

Right now, peak prices are during peak demand, which is typically in the afternoon. However, there are two factors that may change this over the next decade.

In many places, solar power will soon be a significant portion of the power supply, and solar production matches peak demand. Solar is a sunk cost, so any dynamic pricing is based on being able to scale back production at gas-fired plants and the like. Hence, it may be that power costs will be higher when it's dark, even if demand is lower. Expect peak prices in the evening and morning hours.

Also, as electric cars become a significant portion of the vehicles, demand for charging at night will go up significantly, so peak demand may well be at night. Utilities will certainly work to get car owners to install smart chargers that optimize charging based on power availability with the goal of a full charge by a certain time (such as when you typically leave in the morning). [And of course, by "full," that means 80% to maximize the life of the battery unless you're planning a trip.]

Of course, the combination of widespread adoption of both solar power and electric cars suggests that the optimal time to charge is during the day, but good luck getting that to work for the majority of workers.

Isn't this a waste? (2)

BurfCurse (937117) | about 4 months ago | (#45672237)

Due to inefficiencies in electricity storage, wouldn't this result in more electric consumption? How is this not counterproductive?

Re:Isn't this a waste? (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 4 months ago | (#45672289)

They use more energy in total. It is cheaper since more of it is off-peak. Thus, they save money but contribute more to global warming.

BYOD? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45672267)

this is simply a further evolution of the Bring Your Own Device movement ..

Added wear and tear on batteries? (1)

Mysticalfruit (533341) | about 4 months ago | (#45672269)

So my car is sitting in the parking lot getting heavy load on the battery packs all day... how much more wear and tear is that going to be putting on my batteries? How many charge/discharge cycles are these being rated for?

Re:Added wear and tear on batteries? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45672311)

Stop asking such silly questions. The batteries will last longer than the car frame, we promise. Now shut up and get back to your duty of conspicuous consumerism.

Already being done. (2)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 4 months ago | (#45672293)

One of the heaviest load on the office buildings is the Air conditioning costs. The demand is high at the late afternoon when energy prices are the highest. Most cost effective way of shifting the load to off peak times, is to have an ice plant in the basement and make ice overnight. Melt the ice to cool the building during day time. It is usually a closed system, using distilled water. Already there are some building doing this. Vaguely recall the building were in Chicago.

Homes and smaller offices can do this too, but it would require dual pricing of electricity. The thing that stops these technologies from coming to homes is the single flat rate we all pay for electricity. If we price it like the old phone systems, peak/off peak, people would adapt and they will invest in load balancing appliances. Doing the laundry and the dishwasher at nights, cooling and storing cold water overnight to blunt the peak energy demand,... People will do all these things, if we make it worthwhile for them to do it.

DC Fast Charger - $15K to $20K (1)

Kevoco (64263) | about 4 months ago | (#45672319)

In order for this sort of energy trade to be made the building and cars must operate using DC Fast Chargers, which will permit a flat car battery to charge to 80% in about 30 minutes. These chargers are the largest and most capable and are not cheap.

Abuse always saves dollars (1)

holophrastic (221104) | about 4 months ago | (#45672325)

Slavery was always cheaper than actually paying employees. Abusing employees' cars, destroying the batteries and wearing down the electronics in a never-ending charging loop every work day is obviously cheaper than buying your own batteries.

Cradle to grave is always a very different calculation -- one that most people never make.

Compare with other time-shifting methods (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about 4 months ago | (#45672351)

As is pointed out regularly on other /. threads about alternative electricity generation, it's possible to draw electricity during low-cost time periods and store the energy either directly or indirectly. So how does the cost of what's basically a large battery backup system compare with, say, a pump, a large water tank on top of the building, and a dynamo?

Re:Compare with other time-shifting methods (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 4 months ago | (#45672511)

As is pointed out regularly on other /. threads about alternative electricity generation, it's possible to draw electricity during low-cost time periods and store the energy either directly or indirectly. So how does the cost of what's basically a large battery backup system compare with, say, a pump, a large water tank on top of the building, and a dynamo?

It might be less efficient. Each time you convert the energy you are taking some amount of loss to heat/friction. For large scale systems i was under the impression that water-gravity systems were much more efficient than batteries.

This doesn't scale (1)

Syn Ack (3105) | about 4 months ago | (#45672455)

All this does at scale is move "peak" time to be all the time, same goes for just with batteries. The more power you take out of the grid "off hours" is simply skewing those off hours to become peak hours eventually with batteries deploying at scale you'll simply move the peak time and or flatten demand across the entire day/night which while beneficial in the short term doesn't do much long term.

Awesome, this will actually be economical when... (1)

Choad Namath (907723) | about 4 months ago | (#45672461)

So Nissan just needs to come up with a new version of the Leaf that has the same battery capacity but sells for $10k and comes with a 12-year battery warranty? I can't wait!

Fine if Company Car (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45672469)

If the company is providing cars to its execs, this seems like a good use of a company resource while the execs are at work, but I don't think I'd be willing to do this with my own car without a battery replacement contract between me and the company I'm plugging into.

Unexpected pay cuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45672481)

You get a job at some company and then your boss is like, "you know, everybody else here drives a BMW, a Benz, something that speaks to our prestige". You get the sense that if you don't trade in your VW, you'll lose the job.

This is just another version of that.

Cheaper? Easy (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 4 months ago | (#45672489)

Electricity prices are higher during the work day, lower at night. The employees drive the car home and it gets charged overnight in their home on their own power bill.

Power companies do this, but not with batteries. (1)

kaplooi (3453691) | about 4 months ago | (#45672495)

It's called PSH (pumped storage hydroelectricity) and it's the only way to store large amounts of energy for later consumption at an even remotely reasonable cost. Basically it involves running a turbine hydroelectric generator in reverse to pump water uphill to a reservoir during off peak hours and then run the turbine off of that water during peak times for load balancing. Since nuclear and coal based power plants can't be ramped up or down quickly to match demand, pumped storage hydro is used to soak up a lot of the excess capacity that's unused during off peak hours. Obviously you're paying for the inefficiencies of turbine power generation, but they're pretty good (70-80%) and the differences in peak vs off peak pricing more than make up for this cost. No battery bank in existence can even come close to matching the amount of potential energy that can be stored in a reservoir dollar for dollar. That's probably why it accounts for more than 99% of global bulk storage capacity.

Lease the car and the batteries (2)

CAPSLOCK2000 (27149) | about 4 months ago | (#45672605)

Many companies lease cars to their employees. They could include some kind of battery-sharing deal in the contract. This may actually lower the price of owning the cars as they can be seen as part of the power system.

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