GOOD

How Electric Delivery Trucks Could Help Renewable Energy Succeed

If delivery fleets went electric, any truck on a city street could provide storage and stability to the grid.

To Jarrod Goentzel, energy is just another supply chain problem: the product being delivered is electrons. “We have to build inventory,” says Goentzel, executive director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s supply chain management program.


The problem? “There are not a lot of good ways to do that,” he says. Wind and solar plants don’t produce electrons as predictably as coal or nuclear plants do, and to increase their reliability—to build inventory—the energy needs to be stored somehow. But storage, particularly storage in large batteries, is expensive.

But what about large batteries that are already in use? Conveniently, electric vehicles have batteries. Using that capacity to help increase renewable’s reliability — an idea called vehicle-to-grid—is an intriguing idea for renewable energy advocates. Goentzel wondered whether it would be an attractive idea for a group of people he’s worked closely with over the years — fleet managers, people who could have access to a large number of electric vehicles.

“The natural place for vehicle-to-grid rollouts is going to be with fleets,” he says. To begin with, that means fleets operating in cities, where delivery routes are within the range of today’s electric vehicles. “The fleets all come back to the same location at night or whenever they're down. They're parked in one location. They can connect into the grid where the grid can manage it better.”

For Goentzel, the question isn’t whether a fleet of trucks can help grid operators with their jobs. It’s whether the grid can help businesses by increasing their revenue. Utilities might pay for electric vehicles’ storage and generation capacity, but would this approach make an impact on the cost of operating a vehicle? The business case he and his team laid out suggested the savings would total $700 to $1,400 — about 5 to 10 percent of vehicle operation costs.

“It's not going to completely drive behavior,“ Goentzel says. “But it's enough to pay attention to as a company or a fleet operator.”

The companies most likely to take note of this opportunity are truck companies like Ryder or Penske, which own large number of vehicles and operate them for other business. But, Goentzel says, “Any vehicle you see in the city is going to park at some point, and it's a viable candidate.”

That means UPS trucks, Peapod grocery-delivery trucks, service providers, government fleets, “any vehicle that’s of a decent size and there’s more than one of them, managed by somebody,” according to Goentzel, could live a double life. During the day, they could make their rounds; at night, or in off-hours, they could help ensure that the power from wind and solar sources matches the quality of the power form coal.

“It's a lot easier to aggregate and control a fleet,” says Goentzel. “It's a matter of turning individual behavior into fleet behavior. That's the work.” One day, any electric vehicle, even those parked in personal garages, could help manage energy flow.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user striatic

Articles
via David Leavitt / Twitter

Anyone who has ever worked in retail knows that the worst thing about the job, right after the pay, are the unreasonable cheapskates who "want to talk to your manager" to get some money off an item.

They think that throwing a tantrum will save them a few bucks and don't care if they completely embarrass themselves in the process. Sometimes that involves belittling the poor employee who's just trying to get through their day with an ounce of dignity.

Twitter is rallying around a gal named Tori who works at a Target in Massachusetts after she was tweet-shamed by irate chapekate, journalist, and Twitter troll, David Leavitt.

Keep Reading
Business

Childbirth is the number one reason American women visit the hospital, and it ain't cheap. In fact, it's getting more and more expensive. A new study published in Health Affairs found that the cost of having a baby with employer-sponsored health insurance increased by almost 50% in the past seven years.

The study evaluated "trends in cost-sharing for maternity care for women with employer-based health insurance plans, before and after the Affordable Care Act," which was signed into law in 2010. The study looked at over 657,061 women enrolled in large employer-sponsored health insurance plans who delivered babies between 2008 and 2015, as these plans tend to cover more than plans purchased by small businesses or individuals.

Keep Reading
Health

A meteorite crashed into Earth nearly 800,000 years ago. The meteor was 1.2 miles wide, and the impact was so big, it covered 10% of the planet with debris. However, scientists haven't been able to find the impact site for over a century. That is, until now. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal believes the crash site has been located.

Tektites, which are essentially rocks that have been liquefied from the heat of the impact and then cooled to form glass, help scientists spot the original impact site of a meteor. Upon impact, melted material is thrown into the atmosphere, then falls back to the ground. Even if the original crater has disappeared due to erosion or is hidden by a shift in tectonic plates, tektites give the spot away. Tektites between 750,000 to 35.5 million years old have been found in every continent except Antarctica.

Keep Reading
The Planet