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V2G – How do they work, will this become a reality, and what companies are working on this technology

April 21, 2021

Rina Cerrato

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What is vehicle to grid (V2G) and how does it work?

V2G is a technology that allows pushing energy from the battery of an electric vehicle (EV) to a power grid. An EV car is plugged in at a home, but instead of charging, the energy in the battery can go either back to a home (V2H) or the grid (V2G). There is a flow of energy that goes between home and vehicle battery, but still ensuring there is enough charge in the vehicle for it to be used.

Today it is not uncommon to see home generators – scaled down versions of conventional power generators coming into market as home backup generators that sit outside the home like an air conditioning unit. It delivers power to your home in the event of an outage. However, unlike V2G which can push energy from the electric vehicle battery back to the grid for consumption at a near point at any time, home generators are backup power that comes online when the power is out. Moreover, these generators run on natural gas or liquid propane. Not so green for consumers thinking about how to minimize their carbon footprint, without compromising on the security of power in the event of an outage (all that food in the fridge)!

A simple example would be a Tesla car powering a fridge or keeping the lights on when the storm takes the power line down. However, most EV cars are not yet being built with bi-directional charging, the needed technology. Currently, the most sold EV with such capability (as a V2H) is the Nissan Leaf. The 2019 model had a 40 kWh battery, and the 2020 model, the plus version, is equipped with a 62 kWh lithium-ion battery. Nissan is preparing to launch a V2G technology to the Australian market later this year, a pilot is ongoing in Germany to use the Leaf for grid balancing with intermittent renewables, while the V2G already works at their Japanese home market.

V2G capability requires a flow of electricity exchanging between the vehicle and the grid. This means the electricity from the vehicle battery converts from DC current to AC power using an inverter housed in the vehicle. However, it also requires communication technology and software that facilitates the exchange at the right time, while ensuring the vehicle battery is charged for use when needed. Controllable load is the ability to control when an EV is charging and discharging. Several companies are starting to develop the digital platforms that can manage the communication to ensure a car battery is always charged when needed. See Virta (https://www.virta.global/vehicle-to-grid-v2g)

What can V2G accomplish?

As Chris Goodall, author of “Sustainability: All that Matters”, “Ten Technologies to Save the Plante”, and “The Switch”, told Clima in an interview:

“V2G is one of the most critical technologies for the future of the energy transition. My view, for what it is worth, is that EVs will provide almost all the short-term storage a country needs. … A 2021 car might well have 50 kWh of storage and the home it is attached to might typically use less than 10 kWh a day”.

V2G is game changing technology. It allows for energy to be passed on to the grid to supplement daily energy production and meet demand at different times. This could help utilities clean up the energy supply and reduce the need to burn fossil fuels for energy production. It can be a momentary push back and alleviate peak energy demand. The battery acts as a short-term energy storage solution which, when signal, discharges the energy back into the grid for consumption at the nearest point.

It is very effective, highly accessible technology, that puts the solution in the hands of consumers. Electric vehicle batteries are low-cost, accessible forms of energy storage. Vehicles from companies such as Tesla are producing the next generation vehicles capable of V2G. Bi-direction charging capacity is available in Tesla 3 and likely Model Y vehicles [1]. Tesla is also testing a trading platform called Autobidder (https://www.tesla.com/en_CA/support/autobidder) to monetise the stored energy from batteries.

Other companies developing these solutions for public infrastructure applications; including Honda and Nissan. Nissan has developed a Power Control System (https://www.nissan-global.com/EN/ZEROEMISSION/APPROACH/COMPREHENSIVE/ECOSYSTEM/) that allows owners of Leaf cars share the electricity stored in the battery with the home, via an electricity distribution panel via the quick-charging point. Honda and Moixa, have installed V2G smart chargers in Islington, London capable of pushing energy back into the grid at 10 KW [2].

What could the V2G future look like and what companies will make V2G a mainstream technology?

As EV cars become more mainstream, and the EV fleet becomes large enough, and quick-charge infrastructure, along with power systems and the controllable load technology is scaled, V2G may become mainstream. A few companies may play a key role in the dissemination of the technology. A few interesting players are:

Tesla Inc. (please see more information on the company under our Discovery page), is a iClima Earth pure player. Tesla is arguably the world’s first vertically integrated sustainable energy company, offering end-to-end clean energy products, including generation, storage and consumption. The company operates through two business segments: automotive and energy generation and storage and an increased push of the V2G in their future EVs would increase the speed of its adoption.

Another company in Clima’s universe that has a relevant product related to V2Gs is the UK based Calisen Group Holdings. The company designs and sells smart meters to British households, and net metering is a fundamental part of V2G as it allows a homeowner to register the amount put back into the grid (from a EV bi-directional battery, a home battery and potential solar rooftop system).

Kandi Technologies Group, also in Clima’s universe of “climate champions” back in 2012 ran a pilot project for the Chinese city of Hangzhou. The batteries in the Kandi’s EVs were used in a first trial of EV batteries for V2G. Another Chinese EV player with potential to play a key role in the V2G market is NIO Inc. NIO currently runs a “Battery as a Service” model (Baas), attempting to make a car independent of its battery. NIO multiple power solutions include power chargers, power home and one click for power.

Next time you are in the market for an EV car (we would not expect a Clima’s user to acquire an ICE car!), dig down into their V2G capabilities!

V2G Info Box

V2G allows the energy from the battery of an electric car to pass to the grid.

Vehicle batteries are low-cost energy storage solution, with high deployment capacity.

Helps push more renewable energy into the grid.

Complementary to home battery storage systems.

Tesla and a number of Clima universe companies can drive the enablement of V2G.

Learn more about V2G technology:

https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy17osti/69017.pdf

https://www.virta.global/vehicle-to-grid-v2g

[1] https://electrek.co/2020/05/19/tesla-bidirectional-charging-ready-game-changing-features/

[2] https://www.electrive.com/2020/01/16/honda-moixa-launch-their-first-v2g-project-in-london/