Georgia Tech’s Marilyn Brown Leads on New Electric Vehicle Report

By Michael Pearson

Electric vehicles equipped to pump electricity back into the grid could help make for a more resilient power system and make owners a little cash, to boot, according to a new U.S. Department of Energy report written principally by Georgia Institute of Technology School of Public Policy Regents Professor Marilyn Brown.

The report, released June 28, 2018, “envisions a future where mobile batteries in electric vehicles could provide power to our homes, back-up power to businesses, and a new source of revenue to vehicle owners,” Brown said.

While everyday use of power from electric vehicles could help smooth out peak power demands during hot summer days and winter cold snaps, electric vehicles could also come to the rescue in a crisis, Brown said.

“If Puerto Rico had had electric vehicles in large number during their disaster, and if the automakers had allowed them to be used, that would have saved lives,” Brown said.

The report recommends that the Department of Energy should increase support for standards necessary to integrate electric vehicles with the power grid, launch a comprehensive economic study, and back research on business models.

Among the issues that still must be solved are warranty restrictions imposed by automakers on the use of electric cars to provide power to the electricity grid. Carmakers are concerned that using car batteries to supplement the power grid could reduce their lifespans.

Brown is working to answer some of those questions in her role as the head of the Climate and Energy Policy Lab, which, like the School of Public Policy, is a unit of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.

She is evaluating alternative business cases for ownership and management of electric vehicles, as well as forecasting how much electric vehicle ownership might increase if purchasers knew they had a possible source of income from providing services back to the grid.

Findings from that research could be available by the end of 2018, Brown said.

The DOE report’s findings are based on a survey of the members of the Department of Energy Electricity Advisory Committee, on which Brown serves. Briefings by experts in the field and a literature review also contributed to the findings, Brown said.

The report benefited from research conducted in collaboration with the Center for Distributed Energy and funded by the Energy Policy and Innovation Center at Georgia Tech.

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