A modular approach to clean energy: Verd2GO's portable energy storage scheme
This distributed energy system, which bundles electric vehicle range extension with personal energy storage, has some intriguing elements to it, but might still be too early, even for the early adopters.
One of the big missing links in home renewable energy production is battery storage, and while we in the media drooled all over the Tesla Powerwall announcement, the current state of home- and EV-scale energy storage systems on the market is still mostly a matter of too little capacity for too high a price. And with EV-to-building and vehicle-to-grid systems still serving as fringe applications and not for mass adoption quite yet, there doesn't seem to be any practical and affordable pathways to truly portable clean energy that can be used for any electrical demand (the energy in EV batteries isn't readily accessible for anything other than powering the car itself, as far as I know).
One potential system, called Verd2GO, appears to be yet another battery swapping scheme on the surface, and recalls earlier attempts at that technology and business model, such as the ill-fated Better Place, but upon closer look, is actually akin to a swappable EV 'range extender' that doubles as a portable power solution. The startup behind this system is currently seeking crowdfunding to help jumpstart the manufacturing and production of its products and the infrastructure necessary to support it.
At its heart, the Verd2GO system could effectively 'modularize' clean energy (which is another way of saying it's a system of powerpacks/batteries) in a standard format that can be swapped out as needed in an EV, or pulled from the EV into a home to use for power. The Indiegogo campaign page calls this system of portable energy packs a "standardized currency" that can provide "an easy and shareable way to store clean, renewable energy for when it’s needed."
As a comparison, when you go to the gas station, you can purchase 10 gallons of gasoline, which is delivered quickly at the pump for a standard price and with a standard amount of potential energy to it, and you can use some of it in your lawnmower, some of it in your car, some of it in your weedeater or what have you, when you need it. On the other hand, when you go to charge your electric car (or smartphone or laptop or just about any other portable electronics), it takes quite a bit more time, and once the device is charged, it can't really be used to effectively power anything else (unless that device happens to be a power pack).
However, with the Verd2GO system, power packs made up of multiple battery 'cartridges' could be charged with solar energy, and then be dispensed through a rental or subscription scheme at kiosks, giving EV drivers an instant extra range of 40 or so extra miles. These power packs could also be used in solar (or non-solar) homes as a portable power supply that can reduce peak demand charges for home electric bills by being charged or rented at a standard rate, and then used instead of grid electricity during peak hours.
"With Verd2GO, you now have the ability to take renewable energy from and to your home, to power your car while you are on your way to a picnic, where you can charge all your devices at once, without the necessity of dirty grid power." - Verd2GO
Here's a look at what Verd2GO is trying to do:
It's a bit much to get our minds around, considering the way we think of and use electricity right now, which is as an ever-on, on-demand system that's as easy and close as finding the nearest electrical outlet (and to which our monthly utility budget is vulnerable, considering the way our electricity rates tend to be tiered). With this 'modular' system from Verd2GO, electricity would be more manageable/customizable (although probably also a lot more hands-on, in the sense that the power packs are meant to be physically moved and replaced), and would be a distributed energy system that could actually be 'distributed.'
"Verd2GO removes the barriers to entry for average folks to actively participate in the business of harnessing, distributing and selling clean power. Once there is a convenient, simple and intuitive way to sell energy into the grid, we can address our important energy issues and clean power plans." - Verd2GO
I really like the concept of the Verd2GO system, and think that there is definitely a place for battery storage options that are much larger in capacity than the conventional mobile device chargers that can charge a smartphone a few times. However, I fear that this idea, like many that rely on getting to a critical mass of users and infrastructure to succeed, that it's too early to really take off. Without an easy way to connect a Verd2GO power pack to an EV (and without a dedicated place for it in the vehicle), it's hard to see how this could really sell to EV owners, which appear to be the target market for the devices, with the current state of technology.