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Electric Vehicles: Mobile Agents of the Grid Edge

Electric vehicles will serve a much larger purpose than just transportation.
Magdalena Klemun
November 29, 2013

Electric vehicles are the mobile agent of the grid edge. The interest in decoupling transportation from fossil fuel consumption is primarily driven by environmental and economic motives, but grid-edge considerations focus on the system benefits of a large EV fleet. Instead of creating additional peaks by simultaneous charging of large numbers of vehicles, electric cars could make use of excess wind power at night, serve as mobile storage devices, and create new revenue streams for car owners. The EV market segment includes plug-in hybrid and electric-only EVs, vehicle-to-grid technologies, and smart charging solutions.
Deployment and Growth Projections

Plug-in electric vehicles sold twice as well in the first half of 2013 than they did in 2012, according to the DOE. This rate of growth in the market appears to be much faster than in the early phase of hybrid vehicles. Many industry observers point to this as a harbinger of massive success to come. However, even if the share of EVs relative to total car sales is increasing rapidly, it is still small, as the following chart illustrates. The market is bound to reach a turning point in the coming decade. Polk Research found that the U.S. car fleet hit a new record age of 11.4 years in 2013, up 16 percent from 2002. During the same period of time, fuel efficiencies have risen from a miles-per-gallon perspective, so the gap between old models and newer models with better fuel economy could spur increased demand in the short term. The Rocky Mountain Institute predicts that 50 percent of all U.S. vehicles will be electrified by 2050.
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