New trial with electric cars as batteries on wheels

A new international trial will test the potential of electric vehicles to be used as batteries on wheels.

The University of Queensland has partnered with analytics platform Teslascope to recruit Tesla owners internationally to look at driving and charging behaviours around the world.

The project, co-funded by the iMOVE Cooperative Research and an Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowship, will run for 12 months.

Dr Jake Whitehead

Dr Jake Whitehead, E-Mobility Research Fellow at the university, said the potential of electric vehicles is high if Australia can get more electric vehicles into the country.

“If we can do that, it means that we don’t have to invest as much money into pumped hydro, into other energy storage like batteries,” he told Government News.

“We can use part of the electric vehicle fleet to help support the overall stability of the grid whilst we transition to a high renewable energy scenario.”

To help illustrate the potential of electric vehicles as batteries on wheels, Dr Whitehead refers to the entire fleet of cars in Australia, which he estimates to be around 16 million.

“If they were all electric and had an average driving range again of around 300 kilometres,” he said.

“Together that entire fleet would have enough energy to power the whole country, every sector of Australia, for 24 hours and still meet the average driving demand, which is in the order of 40 kilometres a day.”

“If we can do that, it means that we don’t have to invest as much money into pumped hydro, into other energy storage like batteries.” – Dr Jake Whitehead, E-Mobility Research Fellow

Batteries on wheels

However, in order for electrical vehicles to tap into their potential to be used as batteries, they need to be parked at the right times of day, Dr Whitehead said.

“They need to have sufficient capacity in their battery to provide that energy or to soak up renewable energy.

“And we need to know that the next day, when that person wakes up, there would be enough charge in their battery to get them to from A to B.”

One option is to charge the vehicles when there’s excess renewable energy in the energy grid.

“We hear a lot about some challenges with reverse flows because there’s too much solar energy, and we need to be able to soak that up,” Dr Whitehead said.

“It just happens that electric vehicles are the perfect device… [that can] serve the purpose of soaking up that renewable energy.”

“That means you’re not just buying a car, you’re actually buying a car, plus a battery on wheels.” – Dr Jake Whitehead, E-Mobility Research Fellow

The average person in Australia charges their care one to two hours a day, Dr Whitehead said.

“So, if you can selectively choose when you do that one to two hours’ charge, it means that you can help support more renewable energy into the grid because you can take it out at the times when there’s no other need for it.”

Electric vehicles could also potentially power homes using bi-directional charging technology.

“[It’s] exactly like how some people have a battery at their home right now and it will soak up their solar energy and then provide it back to their house at night-time; electric vehicles are able to perform that function,” Dr Whitehead said.

An electric vehicle generally has enough energy to power a house for five or six days, according to Dr Whitehead.

“That means you’re not just buying a car, you’re actually buying a car, plus a battery on wheels that could serve other functions or maybe even making money by selling electricity back to the grid.”

The technology hasn’t arrived in Australia yet but a trial backed by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency is underway in Canberra to test the technology.

How trial will run

The first phase of the trial by the University of Queensland will focus on collecting data from the participants, who will be asked to drive their vehicles as they would normally.

This will be done through the use of an Application Programming Interface, which is software that allows the university to talk directly to the car without installing hardware.

After that, the second phase of the trial will look at actively charging vehicles during times when there is excess renewable energy in the grid.

Dr Whitehead is expecting to see that most vehicles will be driven less that 50 kilometres a day.

“What that will mean is if an average electric vehicle has somewhere around 300 to 400 kilometres of driving range, there’s going to be more than 50 per cent battery capacity, if not closer to 80 per cent, available that could potentially be used,” he said

The university will publish its first findings in the coming months on how people are driving and charging their vehicles.

Comment below to have your say on this story.

If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at  

Sign up to the Government News newsletter

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required