EV Charging / Power

What Does Vehicle-to-Grid (v2g) Mean?

What Does Vehicle-to-Grid (v2g) Mean?
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There are times dear readers, where I try to write about topics that are a bit…above my pay grade. You see, I’m a simple man but I know what love is. Wait, that was from Forrest Gump. Anywho, I will readily admit that this may be one of those times. My brain doesn’t do science very well. If I do screw up and provide bad information in the following article I offer apologies in advance. I welcome any and all comments and/or corrections from people with science brains in the comments below (a big shout-out to Syd and Roseland67 for doing so in the past).  That being said, today I will attempt to answer the question: “what does vehicle-to-grid (v2g) mean?”

Definitions

We mentioned “smart appliances” in our article about CSS charging. Please click here if you haven’t had the chance to read it yet. Using a CSS charger allows for the car being charged to operate as a smart appliance. It does so using PLC (Power Line Communication) to initiate and control charging rates. The result is an optimization of energy usage that as Hunker.com reported, could potentially save the United states over $70 billion over the next 20 years.

In a similar fashion, v2g technology not only communicates with the power grid, it actually allows all-electric vehicles (EVs), Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) and Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (HEVs) the chance to “sell” energy by either returning electricity to the grid or by throttling the car’s charging rate. This action would take place during times of peak energy demand. A decent (although imperfect) comparison can be made to the way solar technology works with the grid. Most homeowners with solar panels are still connected to the grid and will sell any unused electricity back to the power company. Theoretically, any vehicle that connects to the grid could be used in a similar fashion.

Electrical companies all across the globe are having to deal with growing demands for energy because of the electric car boom. According to Green Tech Media,  one study conducted in 2017 estimated that if all 60,000 or so EVs in Texas were plugged in at the same time, it would shut the grid down.

England currently has a little over 100,000 electric vehicles on the road today. This translates to around 2.2 gigawatt-hours of battery storage capability. This number is expected to arise to just under one terawatt-hour of capacity by 2030 thanks to the proliferation of EVs. There is huge potential in v2g technology!

One Slight Problem

As great as all of this sounds, there is one primary issue that still needs to be worked out with the technology. We’ve touched on battery degradation in electric vehicles on multiple occasions. Aside from range anxiety, battery degradation is the leading impediment to electric vehicle ownership for most prospective buyers. As we mentioned here, it will cost over $5,000 to replace the battery in my Nissan Leaf when the time comes. That’s no small sum!

Litium-ion batteries like those found in electric vehicles have a limited lifespan. Batteries are only capable of charging and discharging (cycling) so many times. Using the batteries in electric vehicles will certainly have an impact on battery life. Who will be responsible for paying for battery replacement when the time comes? While there isn’t sufficient data to identify exactly what effect and how severe that effect v2g will be on a car’s battery, it does raise concerns. I for one would like to avoid replacing the battery in my car for as long as I can.

Colin McKerracher, Head of Advanced Transport Research for Bloomberg New Energy Finance put it this way in an interview with Green Tech Media last year:

“Private customers are still hesitant, and many of the revenue numbers you see rely on tapping mostly into frequency regulation markets, which are high-value but can quickly become oversupplied.”

There is Hope

You’re not likely to see residential v2g solutions anytime soon. That aside, the opposite may be true for businesses or government entities with large fleets of vehicles.  PJM Interconnection, an electricity Regional Transmission Organization (RTO) serving 14 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. is working on a pilot program that would use trucks and buses for v2g transfers while parked and unused overnight. This could generate millions of dollars for businesses or agencies who are willing to risk the potential costs associated with battery degradation.

As Reuters reported last year, Nissan became the first car company to secure regulatory approval for their vehicles to be used by a major utility for v2g functions. The German government gave this project the green light in hopes that it would attract corporate customers with fleets of Leafs (or is it Leaves) to participate in the program. Because Nissan uses the CHAdeMO charging standard, this program will not be available to business with fleets of Tesla, BMW, or any other brands. This does not include Mitsubishi however as they also utilize the CHAdeMO charging standard.

Thomas Raffeiner, Chief Executive and Founder of the Mobility House told Reuters:

“Nissan is ahead for now but other technologies, including Tesla’s supercharger can theoretically do the same thing.” 

Someone needs to tell Mr. Musk that he’s lagging!

Looking Ahead

Despite the naysayers, v2g technology is developing and moving forward. According to the Deparment of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Labratory: 

“The interconnection of vehicles and the grid can enable a paradigm shift with synergistic benefits for the transportation and electricity sectors. Widespread use of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) enables transportation with lower emissions, reduction of the link between mobility and oil, and integration of intermittent renewables.”

It sure sounds like they believe in v2g!

What do our readers think about v2g and its potential? Will Nissan’s pilot program in Germany be successful or will battery degradation be too costly to turn a profit? Would you ever consider giving v2g a chance in your home if the technology were able to advance to that level? Please leave us a comment below and let us know.

Source | Images: Nissaninsider.co.uk

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Neil Brooks
Neil Brooks is an electric vehicle owner and lover currently based in the greater Washington D.C. area. Neil is a fan of all things electric and may be the only person in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States to own both an electric leaf blower and an electric chainsaw. When he's not busy blogging about the latest on electric technology he enjoys grilling, rock climbing, and taking naps in his hammock.