The University of Queensland has launched a world-first study to track when electric car owners drive and charge their vehicles in the hope they can one day help power the grid.
“We are effectively looking at a vehicle as a battery on wheels. The only difference is it can move around,” UQ researcher Dr Jake Whitehead told AAP.
The car batteries could potentially be used to soak up extra solar energy generated during the day, power homes and provide backup frequency services to prevent blackouts, he said.
Electric vehicles currently make up about 1.6 per cent of the Australian market, with about 35,000 already on the road and more than 7000 sold in the first half of 2021.
Many have the battery capacity to drive about 400km but most only travel about 50km each day.
In the US, for example, Ford’s electric F150 pickup truck can directly power a home for three days during a blackout.
That’s a lot of spare capacity, Dr Whitehead says, and it could be used to transform the way we supply electricity to the grid.
“Since cars are parked 90 per cent of the time, is there a way to leverage that stationary time? We are on the cusp of this being a reality,” he said.
But first, researchers need data on when EV batteries are charged and discharged.
The study is recruiting Tesla drivers in Australia, the United States, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Germany and the UK to track their driving and charging behaviour, and will pull data directly from the car’s programming interface.
It’s hoped the study will also be expanded to include other types of EVs.
At the same time, scientists at the Australian National University are looking at how to control and co-ordinate the technological side of how EV batteries might be able to deal with the energy grid directly.
Ultimately, Dr Whitehead hopes car owners can make money from their EV batteries feeding into the grid.
Dr Whitehead also hopes his data can be used to influence the development of public car charging infrastructure.
The federal government’s $250 million “future fuels” fund will help pay for EV charging stations across 50,000 homes, 400 businesses and 1000 public areas.
About 1.7 million electric and hybrid vehicles are expected on Australia’s roads by 2030.
The University of Queensland study has been funded to track 500 Teslas but more owners can participate for $30 per vehicle.