REV Charges Up Army Microgrid Project

Rapid Electric Vehicles (REV), a two-year-old, Vancouver, Canada-based startup, has been quietly deploying what could be the largest vehicle-to-grid project in the world with an undisclosed Canadian utility. But on Tuesday REV detailed a project that’s a little more “combative” in nature: REV has started production on networked electric vehicles for the Army’s micro grid research project at Wheeler Air Base, Hawaii.

For the project, REV is converting three Ford Escapes and one Ford F150 with all-electric systems, batteries and a network connection that will help a utility or power producer store and balance energy on the grid. REV calls the converted vehicles its bi-directional Ancillary Power Vehicles (APVs). The company did the work as a subcontractor of Honeywell Aerospace (s HON), and is also working with battery maker Valence (s VLNC) and electric vehicles charging company Coulomb Technologies.

REV’s ultimate business model isn’t necessarily to be a vehicle converter. REV CEO Jay Giraud told me recently that REV wants to own and manage a fleet’s batteries, then provide the software and hardware to manage the battery charging. There are so many electric vehicles on the market right now that REV has to help get them out there, and “no one else in the distribution chain wants to own all of the batteries,” said Giraud.

REV is also able to have several revenue streams that way: a fee for the vehicle conversion, a subscription for battery rental, and a subscription to its battery management service. Eventually, REV wants to have deals with OEMs to embed its technology in fleet vehicles, like the smaller,  fleet-focused Smith Vehicles of the world, said Giraud. The market for electric vehicle network management could one day be massive: estimated to pull in $297 million in the U.S. by 2015, according to Pike Research.

At this point, REV is only targeting private and public fleets for its vehicles and services. Giraud told me his thinks large auto makers like Nissan won’t allow V2G capabilities into consumer cars because they think it will break their warranties. The other argument is that consumers might be uncomfortable enabling V2G services in their cars, because of the notion of a utility sucking up their battery and causing range anxiety.

According to John Gartner of Pike Research, V2G will kick off in earnest in 2015, after the automakers have been selling EVs on the market for a half decade. By then, the research firm predicts that 800,000 plug-in vehicles will be sold, and the software and networked communication layer will be ready to manage EVs in unison helping aid the grid — and keeping utility operators minds at ease.

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