Electricity demand often fluctuates; for example, demand is typically low at night when people are sleeping and are not using any appliances, or demand may be high during a hot summer day when air conditioners are running on high. During periods of low demand, excess energy that is generated can be stored and later used to provide electricity during periods when demand is high. Storing energy allows a more efficient balance of electricity supply and demand. Electrical energy is stored when there is excess energy (i.e. supply exceeds demand) and it is used when levels of consumption are higher than levels of production. This takes the strain off the power load, dodging blackouts, making delivery of electricity more efficient and cost-effective, as well as enabling the storage of intermittent energy sources such as solar or wind energy.
In addition to home energy storage use, however, there are very specific applications of energy storage that relate to vehicles, including:
There is a substantial market for improved battery technology that reduces the impact on the environment, reduces the cost for vehicles (especially pure battery electric vehicles), and extends the range or life of the battery for the consumer. The three main factors of battery technology are size, weight, and cost. In order to make electric vehicles more mainstream and less reliant on taxpayer dollars through tax credits/incentives, investments must be made to optimize these three factors.
Second Life Battery Technology
When plug-in vehicle batteries degrade over time, they are insufficient for automotive use but can still be reused in other applications, increasing the total value of the battery over its life and providing a decreased risk to consumers, OEMs, and others. As the demand for electric vehicles grow (which is expected), there will be two choices when the vehicles are retired: how do we dispose of the batteries properly and/or how do we repurpose the batteries? Considering the environmental degradation associated with improper battery disposal, two markets may open up substantially with the uptick in plug-in vehicles: battery recycling and second life battery technology.
Vehicle Grid Integration
Advanced in technology are occurring to integrate electric vehicles with the grid through the use of demand response charging as well as allowing the vehicle to feed energy to the grid (essentially becoming an electricity generator as well as an electricity user).
Fuel Cell Technology for Use in Vehicles
Fuel cell vehicles are already on the road and expected to increase in substantial numbers, especially in the Southern California area where large investments of hydrogen fueling infrastructure are planned.