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Electric vehicles position themselves as micro load managers

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Christopher Neely's picture
Independent, Local News Organization

Journalist for nearly a decade with keen interest in local energy policies for cities and national efforts to facilitate a renewable revolution. 

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  • Aug 28, 2020
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What seemed like only a possibility not long ago is now becoming an essential feature of new electric cars. Bi-directional charging allows an electric vehicle to turn into as a battery that stores electricity and can power a home is a major breakthrough that alleviates early concerns over how an electric car revolution would overload electricity grids. 

Tesla announced bi-directional charging as a feature in its latest line of electric cars and the new Lucid Air electric vehicle touts bi-directional charging as a way to alleviate grid pressure, power a car owner's home and mitigate rolling blackouts. Volkswagen and BMW have also worked on the issue. 

It's no surprise that the EV-to-grid feature has become so common. A 2018 study reported that electric vehicle fleets could save billions of dollars by incorporating the feature. The feature also offered a solution to growing concerns about grid infrastructure's ability to handle complete fleet electrification. 

EV-to-grid technology will only grow more sophisticated. While the world continues to search for battery storage solutions as we grow more dependent on elusive solar and wind energy, this electric vehicle feature could provide a roadmap to new solutions. 

 

Discussions
Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on Aug 29, 2020

Actually, AFAIK, Tesla has not formally announced support for bidirectional charging in any of its models. The reports from back in May that the model 3 supported it as an undocumented feature that could presumably be turned on by an over-the-air software update turned out to be incorrect. The power controller for the model 3 has pretty clearly been designed in a manner that will make it easy to support bidirectional charging, but it will require. a hardware mod to support it. The feature can't be turned on by software.

That's a relative nit, since there's no question that Tesla has plans for bidirectional chrging in the near future. But I don't think the architecture has been finalized. Bi-directional charging, per se, does not enable V2G operation, or even V2H (vehicle to home). It allows high voltage DC to DC energy transfers both to and from the vehicle, but there needs to be a hefty 60 Hz DC to AC inverter somewhere in the circuit for the vehicle to supply AC power to either the home or the grid. If the inverter were a built-in feature, it would add cost to a lot of cars whose owners have no need nor desire to use the feature.

Tesla Powerwall units, OTOH, necessarily incorporate a suitable inverter to supply AC power to the home. I presume they can also supply power to the grid, since the capability to do so is a major factor in sales of home solar systems. So what makes the most sense to me is for EVs to support bidirectional charging to and from the batteries in a Powerwall (or a 3rd party Powerwall clone?) and leave the Powerwall to handle H2G. 

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