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What to Tell Customers About Using EVs as Energy Sources

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Karen Marcus's picture
Freelance Researcher and Writer Final Draft Communications, LLC

In addition to serving as an Energy Central Community Manager, Karen Marcus has nearly 25 years of experience as a content developer within the energy and technology industries. She has worked...

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Electric vehicle (EV) sales are expected to climb considerably in the coming years. As more consumers buy EVs to help clean up the environment, they have the opportunity to support the electrical grid as well. In the process known as bi-directional charging or vehicle to grid (V2G), EVs plugged into homes or businesses can provide power to the structure or give back to the grid. According to Grist, V2G is “gaining traction now as automakers release more electric models, smart charging technologies improve, and millions of new electric vehicles…hit the road every year.”

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Utilities that want to enable V2G for their customers should be prepared with information and answers to likely questions. Here are a few ideas to start with.  

How It Works

The EV battery operates as a home battery, storing energy it gets when charging. Ideally, charging of the EV takes place during off-peak hours when electric rates are at their lowest. Then, during peak times, the direction of the charging switches, and power is diverted from the EV to the home or business, helping to offset peak loads. Depending on how the setup is arranged, power can also go directly to the grid.

What Equipment Is Needed

The customer must have an EV that is capable of V2G. Not all of them are, but many manufacturers plan to include bi-directional capabilities in future models. They must also have a bi-directional charging unit. And, to contribute to the grid, the setup must be coordinated through a central server.

Customers may be concerned about safety. These charging units have sensors designed to monitor the load of the building and shut down the charging process if a certain limit is reached. Another concern is draining the EV battery, and there is a solution for that too. Smartphone apps can be used to set parameters to avoid such situations. For example, it could be set to stop sending power from the EV once the battery is down to 40% of its full capacity.

Benefits

V2G can help customers save money in several ways. As mentioned above, they can charge during off-peak hours, then use power from the EV battery during peak hours to avoid paying higher peak costs. If the EV battery is charged with solar energy and then used to power the home or send electricity back to the grid, the customer isn’t paying anything and may be paid for the power they provide. As EV infrastructure evolves, more businesses and workplaces will have charging capabilities; customers can charge at those locations, then use the energy to power the home, again avoiding home energy costs.

Also, customers gain the ability to use their EV as a backup power source. And V2G helps stabilize the grid by shifting some of the response to overall power load to sources other than utilities.  

Next Steps

In addition to the information above, share how the utility is managing V2G and the steps customers must take to participate. Because this process is so new, create a website section that describes the program, spells out steps to participation, explains how to set up the equipment, presents FAQs, and provides a way to sign up. Photos and videos can help those who may be unsure understand how the system works.

V2G has the potential to provide great benefits to utilities, their customers, and the community at large. Utilities should start now to develop a program that can grow along with EV and EV infrastructure technology in the coming years.

Does your utility have a V2G program? Please share in the comments.

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