Gridpoint & Electric Vehicles

In our interactive spreadsheet “How Much Electricity for all Commuters? ” you can calculate what it would take to replace our combustion-driven automotive fleet with electric vehicles. The assumptions that the spreadsheet default to (which you can change to anything you wish) indicate that based on 4.0 kilowatt-hours per mile, and 40 miles per day of average driving per vehicle, it would take 10 gigawatt-hours to power 1.0 million electric vehicles. At ten hours of off-peak charging per night, that would be an additional 1.0 gigawatt of off-peak energy going into the grid per each additional 1.0 million electric vehicles. But if the winds come and go, and the solar peak is in the middle of the day, where will this energy come from? Intermittant renewable sources of electricity require unprecedented ability by the grid to store energy in order to flatten the transmission loads, to harvest electricity and store surplus electricity when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing, and to deliver this electricity during the demand peak as well as during the night when electric vehicles are recharging.

There are two ways to solve this challenge; both well underway. At the large utility scale there are plans to develop megawatt-hour storage farms, as we report in “Megawatt Storage Farms.” But at the residential and commercial scale, there are kilowatt-hour solutions that combine electricity storage with smart systems to make each storage node aware of the activity on the grid; the availability of electricity, the price of electricity, the stress on the grid. These systems therefore are not only storage solutions, but act in concert with each other to discharge stored electricity when prices are high on the grid, and to collect and store electricity when prices are low. The combination of megawatt-hour utility scale solutions and millions of smart, virtually integrated kilowatt-hour solutions play a critical role in the development of renewable electricity as well as the mass proliferation of electric vehicles.

GridPoint’s Energy Manager
(Photo: GridPoint)

One of the early leaders in kilowatt-hour scale storage solutions is GridPoint, reported on last year in our post “Gridpoint’s Storage+ .” At that time Gridpoint already had hundreds of their “Connect Series” units, storing up to 12 kilowatt-hours each, being tested all over the United States.

The market seems to be taking GridPoint seriously, since on Sept. 23rd they announced a $120 million new equity financing, bringing the total raised in that company up to $220 million. An interesting question as Gridpoint and other decentralized energy management systems emerge is to what extent they will focus on enabling centralized utilities to remotely monitor and manipulate large electrical appliances in private homes, and to what extent they will focus on facilitating abundant electricity through harvesting and storing privately owned renewable electricity. Both directions are viable, the question is which will be emphasized.

GridPoint has also just announced the acquisition of V2Green, a Seattle-based company that has developed the “V2Green System, an integrated client-server solution, [that] establishes intelligent, two-way communication between plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVS) and the power grid. The flow of electricity to and from these grid-aware vehicles can then be managed by utilities, within parameters set by vehicle owners.” If GridPoint can integrate their grid-aware onsite storage systems with grid-aware onboard electric vehicle storage systems, they will definitely maintain their lead in the race to bring to market decentralized, smart electricity storage solutions.

GridPoint is not alone in the race to deliver products to integrate decentralized renewable electricity sources with storage and management solutions. Another pioneering company in this race is Solar City, fast becoming the market leader in residential photovoltaic installations, as well as the much vaunted Tesla Motors, who are now in production with their Tesla Roadster and who have announced a more affordable “Model S” as their next product. Between Gridpoint, Solar City, and Tesla, you have an example of a company delivering a decentralized solution in all three areas of the new electric age; storage, generation, and mobility. Expect each of these three companies, as well as the countless others who are emerging, to roll-out companion products that will overlap into the other areas, blurring the lines between which solution provider is fulfilling which niche.

Most encouraging of all is the area in common between these three sectors of decentralized electricity is the smart, grid-aware integration software they are developing. This is also the area where the most unique intellectual property and cutting edge innovation is taking place. Because ultimately, Gridpoint, Solar City, and Tesla are systems integrators; like their counterparts in the PC industry, they are dependent on component manufacturers to deliver the enabling breakthroughs such as batteries and photovoltaic panels. A complex and robust business and technology ecosystem is developing as the electricity economy emerges.

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