Nick Rosen | |

“A hundred miles in one charge” – further than today’s Volt
The Chevy Volt is showing the way forward for some off-grid families. Where one of the household commutes to work, they might charge their hybrid/electric car during the day, and then drive home with a full battery ready to power the home.

But as this ad from the early 1900s reminds us, it s actually a case of Back to the future — the earliest electric cars were pioneered a century ago and battery technology has scarcely advanced since then. GM say a Chevy battery can power a households for just TWO hours (see below). In fact it could power a household for up to a day with intelligent use of energy and a small solar panel to top it up.

The battery is the most expensive part of an electric vehicle, and once an “EV battery has reached the end of its life in an automotive application, only 30 percent or less of its life has been used,” said Pablo Valencia, GM senior manager of battery lifecycle management.

“This leaves a tremendous amount of life that can be applied to other applications like powering a structure before the battery is recycled” Valencia said.

General Motors and ABB showed the next stage in battery reuse, the repackaging of five used Chevrolet Volt batteries into a modular unit capable of providing two hours of electricity needed by three to five average American homes.

The uninterruptable power supply and grid power balancing system was demonstrated during GM’s Electrification Experience. The prototype unit provided 25 kW of power and 50 kWh of energy to power all the support lighting and audiovisual equipment in an “off-grid” structure.

GM and ABB last year demonstrated how a Chevrolet Volt battery pack could be used to collect energy and feed it back to the grid and deliver supplemental power to homes or businesses.

During a recent demonstration, the energy storage system was run in a “remote power back-up” mode where 100 percent of the power for the facility came from Volt batteries through ABB’s Energy Storage Inverter system.

A similar application could one day be used to power a group of homes or small commercial buildings during a power outage, allow for storage of power during inexpensive periods for use during expensive peak demand, or help make up for gaps in solar, wind or other renewable power generation, ABB said.

These functions, along with frequency regulation on electric distribution systems, could someday be used by utilities to reduce cost to customers and improve the quality of power delivery, the company said.

– “We showed today how fast this research concept is turning into reality,” said Allen Burchett, ABB’s senior vice president for Business Development in North America.

He claims falsely: “The ABB-GM Volt battery system is the world’s first use of car batteries as possible back-up power for homes and other commercial uses.” In fact car batteries have been used for this purposes since, well, the invention of car batteries.
” We will be installing it on the grid soon to complete the technical evaluation, and this will tell us all what smart grid applications are possible, like back-up power, reducing energy cost, strengthening utilities’ distribution systems and storing surplus renewable energy.”

But under the bold talk the real truth is that we are still waiting for the great leap forward in battery technology. Battery life is longer but the amount of energy that can be stored per dollar spent, or per pound of weight has advanced hardly at all in a hundred years.

Buy our book - OFF THE GRID - a tour of American off-grid places and people written by Nick Rosen, editor of the web site

2 Responses to “In the future we will drive to the store to buy electricity”

Leave a Reply