Historic bill lets electric car owners sell back to the grid
UD was represented at the V2G event by, from left, Sarah O'Neill, Dean Nancy Targett, Jon Lilley, Willett Kempton and Sachin Kamboj.
Gov. Jack Markell discusses V2G technology before signing novel legislation into law.
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1:21 p.m., Sept. 22, 2009----The University of Delaware was a major player at a Monday, Sept. 21, event that marked the launch of the first vehicle-to-grid (V2G) electric cars made in Delaware and the signing of Senate Bill 153 by Gov. Jack A. Markell, which rewards owners of V2G technology for plugging in.

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The event was held at AutoPort Inc. near Wilmington, which retrofitted a Toyota Scion that was on display. Another star of the show was the University of Delaware's eBox V2G vehicle, which was developed by vehicle-to-grid pioneer Willett Kempton, professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE).

The bill, which Markell said was the first of its kind in the world, compensates owners of electric cars for electricity sent back to the grid at the same rate they pay for electricity to charge the battery.

V2G vehicles work like an electrical sponge, capable of absorbing excess energy when demand for power is low, and returning some back to the electric grid when the demand for power is high. The new law lets people take advantage of this unique ability by requiring owners providing V2G services be “net metered,” meaning they only pay for the net amount of electricity they draw.

While the vehicles do not generate electricity like solar panels or wind turbines, their ability to provide electricity back to the electric grid means at times V2G customers' meters will actually run backwards.

“This technology improves the electric system by providing balancing power via storage that would otherwise require burning fossil fuels to produce,” Kempton said.

In addition to Kempton, UD was represented at the event by CEOE Dean Nancy Targett; graduate student Jon Lilley, who coordinated the UD project; postdoctoral computer scientist Sachin Kamboj, who worked on programming the car; and UD alumna Sarah O'Neill, who works for AC Propulsion in California, which makes the electric drive system and designed the car.

Roy Kirchner, president of AutoPort, which received a grant from the Delaware Economic Development Office to train workers to retrofit V2G vehicles, welcomed the group of about 50 people, calling the project “another first for the First State,” and introduced the governor.

Markell paid tribute to Kempton, whom he said he met five years ago when Kempton first told him about his project. It is “amazing but here we are,” Markell said, thanking Kempton for his “continuing education.”

After the signing of the bill, the keys were given to a representative of Pepco Holdings, the Delmarva Power parent company that supported the vehicle's development, and there was a ribbon cutting ceremony as the V2G car emerged from the AutoPort building.

The legislation, Senate Bill 153, was sponsored by Sen. F. Gary Simpson, R-Milford. It was co-sponsored by Energy and Transit Committee Chair Sen. Harris B. McDowell III, D-Wilmington North; Sen. Liane Sorenson, R-Hockessin; Sen. David Sokola, D-Newark; and Rep. Gerald W. Hocker, R-Ocean View. It was also sponsored by John Kowalko, D-Newark South.

The University of Delaware's Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships is exploring a partnership with AutoPort to provide technology rights and assistance to incorporate V2G patented technology in the conversion of gas powered to all electric vehicles.

Article by Sue Moncure
Photos by Evan Krape