The University of Queensland has today announced a world first study to see if spare capacity in electric vehicles could support the uptake of renewable energy.

The study is being co-funded by the iMOVE Cooperative Research and an Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowship, and aims to see if brands such as Tesla could do more than just take their owners from place to place.

Just how could electric vehicles provide renewable energy?

While electric vehicle ownership is slowly on the rise globally, most are typically driven less than 50 kilometres per day.

UQ is looking for Tesla owners — 500 initially — to study their driving and charging behaviour.

The university reckons the spare capacity could absorb renewable energy that’s generated when cars are parked, and maybe someday even export that renewable energy to power homes.

This could be not just for the owners of the EV but even for other people, which might be an income opportunity for electric vehicle owners.

The study will cover Australia, the USA, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Germany and the UK. In return for participation, UQ would hand out a free 12 month premium subscription to Teslascope which is an analytics platform for Tesla owners.

Initially the study will only utilise Teslas but as other electric vehicle manufacturers integrate Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) – the system facilitating the exchange of data from the car – into their own EVs it could be extended to their own brands.

A “unique opportunity”

Beyond finding out if electric vehicles could generate their own energy, the study’s co-ordinator Jake Whitehead says it could influence the roll out of public charging infrastructure.

He says it could also dispel misconceptions about how electric vehicles are used by their owners.

“This [study] provides a unique opportunity to leverage this spare energy capacity to absorb renewable energy generated in the middle of the day and overnight, and potentially even export energy to power homes and support the grid in the future using vehicle-to-grid (V2G) chargers,” Whitehead said.

“We have a unique opportunity through this project to better understand EV driving and charging behaviour in different markets, and what are the opportunities to use EVs to provide energy services and generate extra income for owners in the future.”