With UD 'vehicle-to-grid' program, AutoPort turns cars into power plants - Technical.ly Delaware

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With UD ‘vehicle-to-grid’ program, AutoPort turns cars into power plants

Before long, all cars will go electric. AutoPort, Inc. is one of several partners helping the University of Delaware take the conversion process one step further.

These cars both give and take electricity from the grid. AutoPort helps make that possible.

(Photo courtesy of University of Delaware)

The electric car is a groundbreaking step towards creating a less expensive and more sustainable transportation system in the U.S.

However, the usual plug-in charging method has its limitations.

That’s why the University of Delaware contracted AutoPort, Inc., a privately-held car processing company based at the Port of Wilmington, to help convert cars from gas to electric through UD’s “vehicle-to-grid” program.

The “grid on wheels” program taps a handful of industry partners. The unique system both provides energy for an electric car fleet and provides the grid itself with a new energy-storage resource.

By being able to feed electricity back into the system, the cars become, essentially, mini power plants.

Since its launch in 1981, AutoPort’s main focus has been acting as the foremost port processing company for GM, in addition to processing all vehicles north of the Mason Dixon Line. AutoPort also has great influence overseas, said AutoPort Director of Business Dick Johnson.

Though it international outreach is impressive, Johnson says AutoPort’s pairing with the University of Delaware is the company’s most innovative project to date.

“Ordinary plug-in cars cannot connect to the grid,” Johnson said, “This is different because of the ability of the car — it is also connected to the Internet.”

The power connection is also linked up to a server at UD, he explained. The cars connect to the grid, then pull power out as needed, or give excess power back.

“The advantage is that it’s immediate,” said Johnson. “There can be excess power that [the cars] store for a short burst of power, or they can pull it out and totally exhaust the battery.”

Not only is the UD system a convenient way to store, monitor and distribute energy, but it’s also a good way to save money.

The vehicle-to-grid approach lets drivers collect as much as $150 a month in net revenue.

The University gave AutoPort 60 cars for conversion to the grid system.

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AutoPort has also converted Comcast cable vans, one located in Washington, D.C., and another in Philadelphia. Despite the company’s wide reach, Johnson says AutoPort is committed to keeping its facility in Delaware because of the state’s reliable client base, the backing of an extremely supportive governor and its strong business community.

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