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China to build largest electric car and smart grid deployment ever in Hangzhou

China is aggressively developing clean energy technologies, electric vehicles, and the necessary supporting infrastructure, as demonstrated by a large electric car leasing and smart grid project in Hangzhou.

In what may be the largest single electric vehicle order ever, the city of Hangzhou, China, has signed a deal with Kandi Technologies, and 9 other companies, to supply 20,000 electric vehicles for a large electric car leasing/sharing program. It's claimed that when the project is running, in 2013, it will be the largest pure electric car rental project anywhere. Additionally it will be the largest deployment of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology anywhere.

Hangzhou is being treated by China as a "new energy vehicle demonstration" pilot city, putting the city at the vanguard of the promotion of electric vehicles in China. The State Council Development Research Center of Enterprise Institute see's the project as a path to explore business models for a Chinese domestic electric vehicle market. The State Council also issued a "Energy-saving and new energy automotive industry development plan (2012-2020)" for the next eight years, to guide the development of electric vehicles, and explore the requirements for commercial viability.

Implementation of the large-scale electric vehicle leasing program is expected to begin in August 2012, and to be completed in 2013. There will be an effort for companies and locations across China to cooperate in learning from this pilot project.

The electric rental cars, supplied by Kandi Technologies, are positioned as a means of green transportation for Hangzhou residents, to provide for their driving needs within the region. It will allow consumers a chance to experience electric cars, at a very low cost, without having to make a purchasing or leasing decision.

Kandi Technologies is the only EV manufacturer out the 10 companies involved in the project. Other companies are supplying other components, such as the battery packs. The Hangzhou electricity utility will build a network of EV charging and battery swapping stations, and will own the batteries.

The battery packs will additionally be used for grid stabilization using Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology. The batteries will be financed through revenue earned via this smart grid technology, and the project will also be the largest scale trial of using electric car batteries in V2G services. V2G has so far just been a concept bandied about, with several small pilot projects in the U.S. and other Western countries.

The idea behind V2G is that "grid stabilization" efforts can be helped along if there are large scale battery packs attached to the electricity grid. If the grid suddenly needs a jolt of electricity, a battery pack can be tapped to provide that electricity, and battery packs can soak up excess electricity when there is too much on the grid. For example there is many gigawatt-hours of excess electricity available at night, which could be time-shifted to daytime use with enough battery packs. With enough electric cars in use, aggregating those battery packs into a large grid energy storage system could be very good for the electricity grid.

The Hangzhou project neatly side-steps one of the resistance factors to V2G efforts in the past. If individuals own the cars, and own the battery packs, there is little incentive for the car owner to allow their battery pack to be used for this purpose. In this project, the battery packs will be owned by the electricity company, and the cars available only by lease to city residents. It is the electricity utility that has the most incentive to construct a large energy storage system.

In August, Kandi Technologies will be showcasing electric cars and "smart parking technology" at the 2012 China International Green Vehicle Industry Expo in Hangzhou.

Kandi Technologies manufactures a range of small electric vehicles, including a Go-Kart, an ATV, and a couple variations on the small vehicle shown here. This vehicle has a maximum speed of 70 km/hr (45 miles/hr) and a driving range of over 80 km (50 miles). The electric drive train runs at only 72 volts, at a 7.5 kilowatt maximum power, which is in line with the top speed. Curb weight is 910 kg, and it can carry a load of 180 kg. Clearly these cars are not of the level we are accustomed to in the U.S. but would serve well for around-town driving in an urban setting.

This project is just one example of how China is moving aggressively to develop electric vehicle, smart grid, and clean energy technologies.