Pacific Gas & Electric Gets a Charge Out of (Into?) Tesla

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
pacific gas electric gets a charge out of into tesla

California-based utility Pacific Gas & Electric ( PG&E ) has formed a partnership with aspiring electric automobile manufacturer Tesla Motors to "further evolve" vehicle-to-grid (V2G) recharging technology. Tesla's Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel announced a new piece of jargon– MotorsSmart charging– and quickly moved to quash any idea that Tesla recharging would be a two-way e-street. "The vehicle does not provide power back to the grid. Instead, the vehicle charging rate is controlled remotely in order to support the operation of the grid or to best match load to the availability of intermittent renewable energy resources such as wind and solar." Huh? Did he just say that Tesla Roadsters' recharging can be automatically restricted to those times when the California power grid is running on renewable resources? Yup. "Tesla Motors' goal in developing V2G is to eventually [our emphasis] provide our customers with an option that could reduce their cost of electricity for vehicle charging while supporting greater penetration of renewable energy on the grid." Promises, promises. Meanwhile, PG&E gets a way to restrict encourage company-compatible recharging timing so that their grid isn't overwhelmed by plug-in vehicles. As if. If only?

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  • Ralph SS Ralph SS on Sep 13, 2007

    Ok. Nice lingerie. about if I put my plug....

  • Kevin Kevin on Sep 13, 2007

    V2G is a horrible idea and the people promoting it should be ashamed of themselves. Tesla's wise to clarify that they're not working to permit the utility to drain the car's battery and leave drivers stranded, but they'd be far wiser to have nothing to do with this scam at all. If I DID have an all-electric car, I think I'd like to be able to count on recharging it when I need to, and not worry that I'll be denied the electricity based on the caprice of the power company. It's becoming clear that this is an unappreciated threat with electric cars -- the power companies will attempt to control when and where you can recharge, and try to sucker you into generating their electricity for them cheap, all in the guise of being "green".

  • FreeMan FreeMan on Sep 13, 2007

    Kevin- Power companies do this all the time. I used to work for a wholesale power distributor, and all of our customers (REMCs) gave switches to their customers to centrally control power usage. They were all optional, and could only be switched off during certain times of the day. Most commonly, the switches were put on water heaters and heavy farm equipment (grain driers, irrigation equipment, etc). If you allowed the power co to install the switch, you got a credit on your bill for every time they turned your power off. They would turn off devices during the heat of the day (when people usually aren't home, therefore, don't need hot water), when the electrical load was the highest because commercial buildings are running, and everyone's using the AC. I can certainly see the advantage of this if it's A) optional to the owner, B) the owner gets a credit on his bill if/when it happens, and C) the owner has some sort of method to override the shutoff. I can see the usefulness of this since electrical usage would hit a huge spike between 5-6pm that would last for several hours as everyone gets home from work & plugs in their cars (in addition to the home electricity use increase that happens that time of day anyway). When these spikes happen, the utilities have to fire up peaking plants which usually burn some kind of gas or oil to provide the short-term burst of energy needed to meet the demand. If, instead, they could just switch off 30% of the charging cars for a short time, then roll to another 30% 2 hours later, etc. they can better manage the load by managing the demand. If I, as a PIEV owner, have an override, then if I have plans for the evening and the batteries are low, I can override the shutoff, lose my credit, but still be able to get a charge to get me through the evening. All in all, this is not as draconian as it sounds, and something along these lines will be necessary to make widespread use of plug-in electrics a reality, because there isn't the money to massively increase the electrical generation & transmission infrastructure to support the huge additional demand that PIEVs will require. My guess is that all the reports we've heard that the system can support it as is include some form of managing useage.

  • Kevin Kevin on Sep 13, 2007

    FreeMan, OK that's a reasoned reply as far as voluntary grid regulation is concerned, but I'll still counter that a) I'd say it's pretty clear from the press release the PG&E REALLY wants some 2-way V2G power transfer out of this deal and b) Hey, I come home from work everyday and immediately flip on about 4 lights, a TV, a computer and monitor, a ceiling fan or two, and an air conditioner, and likely as not a few other things -- just like everyone else in America does. Never yet had a utility offer me any means whatsoever to regulate that stuff.