The Connection between EVs, Batteries and a Clean Grid

2016-09-19, GM Green: The Chevrolet Bolt EV just received an EPA-estimated range rating of 238 miles per charge. And GM just committed to meet its entire electricity needs at all of its global operations using renewable energy by 2050.

The two pieces of news from the automaker go hand in hand, representing GM’s vision of a decarbonized auto industry. Put simply, cleaner cars running on a cleaner grid.

Britta Gross, GM’s director of advanced vehicle commercialization policy, said that driving toward a complete reliance on renewable energy for GM’s global operations is a perfect complement to the company’s electric vehicle strategy.

Britta regularly works with electric utilities and NGOs to identify the opportunities GM’s electric vehicles can play to reduce local emissions, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improve energy security for future generations.

“The cleaner the grid, the cleaner our vehicles are to produce and to drive,” said Gross. “And one day plug-in electric vehicles can be used to help manage the intermittency of wind and solar energy on the grid.”

With battery labs in the U.S., China and Germany, GM considers its knowledge in this space as a competitive advantage. The company also operates the largest battery systems lab of any automaker in North America. This puts GM in a unique position to tackle the intermittency challenge.

The sun isn’t always shining and the wind isn’t always blowing, but GM is prepared to unlock the potential of batteries as another reliable way to store energy.

The company is already doing it at its Milford Proving Ground data center office, where used Chevrolet Volt batteries are powering the building. These batteries are collected from out-of-service vehicles and are re-certified for continued use. Even after a Chevrolet Volt vehicle has been retired, up to 80 percent of its battery storage capacity remains. This secondary use application extends its useful life, while helping contribute to a more circular economy.

In Milford, a solar array in parallel with five Volt batteries supports the administration building occupants’ energy usage. Since the beginning of this year, the system has generated more energy than the occupants have used, achieving net-zero energy usage. The system is projected to achieve net-zero on an annual basis, continually feeding more energy back to the grid than is consumed.

GM does not have many used battery packs yet since zero have been replaced in customer vehicles due to capacity degradation, but the company is planning for their sustainable lifecycles

GM’s global renewable energy manager, Rob Threlkeld, views four main drivers on its path to 100 percent renewable energy: increasing its energy efficiency, sourcing renewable energy, addressing intermittency through energy storage and influencing policy to drive scale. The result should not only strengthen the company, but also help address climate change and contribute to cleaner air for customers.

“GM’s pledge to use 100 percent renewable electricity is nothing short of remarkable,” said Herve Touati, managing director for the Business Renewables Center. “As the auto industry moves toward a global transformation from oil to electricity, this pledge is a clear indication of GM’s vision of a cleaner, safer and more affordable energy future.”

From industry-leading electrified vehicles to ride-sharing and carsharing services, the company is on a mission to disrupt the auto industry and innovatively address how transportation impacts and serves the world.

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