1. WHAT IS V2G AND V2X?
V2G stands for “vehicle to grid” and is a technology that enables energy to be pushed back to the power grid from the battery of an electric car. With electric vehicle-to-grid technology—also known as car-to-grid—a car battery can be charged and discharged based on different signals — such as energy production or consumption nearby.
V2X means vehicle-to-everything. It includes many different use cases such as vehicle-to-home (V2H), vehicle-to-building (V2B) and vehicle-to-grid services. Depending on whether you want to use electricity from an EV battery to your home or building electrical loads, there are different abbreviations for each of these use cases. Your vehicle can work for you, even when feeding back to the grid would not be the case for you.
In a nutshell, the idea behind vehicle-to-grid is similar to regular smart charging. Smart charging, also known as V1G charging, enables us to control the charging of electric cars in a way that allows the charging power to be increased and decreased when needed. Vehicle-to-grid goes one step further and enables the charged power to also be momentarily pushed back to the grid from car batteries to balance variations in energy production and consumption.
2. WHY SHOULD YOU CARE ABOUT V2G?
Long story short, vehicle-to-grid helps mitigate climate change by allowing our energy system to balance more and more renewable energy. However, to succeed in tackling the climate crisis, three things need to happen in the energy and mobility sectors: Decarbonisation, energy efficiency, and electrification.
In the context of energy production, decarbonisation refers to the deployment of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power. This introduces the problem of storing energy. While fossil fuels can be seen as a form of energy storage as they release energy when burned, wind and solar power function differently.
Energy should be either used where it’s produced or stored somewhere for later usage. Therefore, the growth of renewables inevitably makes our energy system more volatile, requiring new ways to balance and store energy to be used.
Simultaneously, the transportation sector is doing its fair share of carbon reduction and as notable proof of that, the number of electric vehicles is increasing steadily. Electric vehicle batteries are by far the most cost-efficient form of energy storage since they require no additional investments in hardware.
Compared to the unidirectional smart charging, with V2G the battery capacity can be utilized more efficiently. V2X turns EV charging from electrical demand response to a battery solution. It enables the use of the battery 10x more efficiently compared to unidirectional smart charging.
Globally there will be 140-240 million electric vehicles by 2030. This means that we'll have at least 140 million tiny energy storages on wheels with an aggregated storage capacity of 7 TWh.
Vehicle-to-grid technology enables us to make the best use of the existing population of vehicles.
Virta vision for vehicle-to-grid solutions
Stationary energy storages — big power banks in a sense — are becoming more common. They are a handy way of storing energy from, for instance, large solar power plants.
For example, Tesla and Nissan offer home batteries also for consumers. These home batteries, together with solar panels and home EV charging stations, are a great way to balance out energy production and consumption in detached houses or small communities.
Currently, one of the most common forms of storage is pump stations, where water is pumped up and down to store energy.
On a larger scale, and compared to electric vehicles, these energy storages are more expensive to supply and require significant investments. As the number of EVs is continuously rising, electric cars provide a storage option with no extra costs.
At Virta, we believe that electric cars are simply the smartest way to help with renewable energy management and production, as EVs will be part of our lives in the future — regardless of the ways we choose to use them.
3. HOW DOES VEHICLE-TO-GRID WORK?
When it comes to using V2G in practice, the most important thing is to make sure that EV drivers have enough energy in their car batteries when they need it. When they’re leaving for work in the morning, the car battery must be full enough to drive them to work and back if needed.
This is the basic requirement of V2G and any other charging technology: The EV driver must be able to communicate when they want to unplug the car and how full the battery should be at that time.
With Virta’s V2G solution, the car battery is always charged to 70-90% when the driver needs to go.
When using smart charging, the possibility of balancing the grid ends when the battery is fully charged. With V2G, the grid balancing can continue the full time the vehicle is plugged in.
A practical example
Firstly, let’s go through the very basics of how electricity behaves in the grid — it always takes the shortest possible way to the nearest location where it’s needed. A vehicle-to-grid charging device absorbs electricity from the car battery and simply just pushes it back to the grid, where it continues its journey to the nearest location where it’s needed.
At Virta Headquarters, we currently have two V2G charging stations in use. These stations are located in the office building garage, next to regular, publicly available smart charging points.
When the V2G station is discharging, the electricity here at Virta HQ transfers directly to the nearby car batteries charging at the regular stations — they are the nearest locations where the electrical demand is continuous.
If no cars are being charged, the discharged electricity will be used on garage lighting or air conditioning. This reduces the total energy consumption of the building, which balances the energy system around our office.
4. THE BENEFITS OF VEHICLE-TO-GRID
Summary of the benefits depending on your targets:
- Reduce total cost of ownership of fleets
- Car OEMs (manufacturers) are able to sell vehicles with added value
- Energy market parties can trade and optimize their balance
- Network operators can optimize investments & stabilize the grid
For real estate
When installing a charging device, step number one is to review the electrical system of the building. The electrical connection can become a hindrance to the EV charging installation project or increase costs significantly in case the connection needs to be upgraded.
Vehicle-to-grid, as well as other smart energy management features like Dynamic Load Management (DLM), help enable EVs to charge anywhere, regardless of the surroundings, location, or premise.
The benefits of V2G for buildings are visible when the electricity from car batteries is used where it is needed the most (as described in the previous chapter). Vehicle-to-grid helps balance out electricity demand and avoid any unnecessary costs for building an electricity system.
With V2G, the momentary electricity consumption spikes in the building can be balanced with the help of electric cars and no extra energy needs to be consumed from the grid.
For the power grid
When power consumption increases, it can overload the power grid in that area. A building’s ability to balance its electricity demand with V2G charging stations also helps out the power grid on a larger scale.
This will come in handy when the amount of renewable energy in the grid, produced with wind and solar, increases. Renewable energy sources are volatile and create challenges to areas that rely on wind and solar power.
These circumstances cause “grid congestion” or bottlenecks that can prevent electricity from reaching its destination. Luckily, intelligently controlled EVs can offer a solution to grid congestion and prevent the need for expensive grid infrastructure upgrades.
Without vehicle-to-grid technology, energy has to be bought from reserve power plants, which increases electricity prices during peak hours, since striking up these extra power plants is a pricey procedure.
Without control, you need to accept this given price but with V2G you are master to optimize your costs and profits. In other words, V2G enables energy companies to play ping pong with electricity in the grid.
Why would consumers take part in vehicle-to-grid as a demand response then? As we explained earlier, it does no harm to them, but does it any good either?
Since vehicle-to-grid solutions are expected to become a financially beneficial feature for energy companies, they have a clear incentive to encourage consumers to take part.
After all, the technology, devices, and vehicles compatible with the V2G technology are not enough – consumers need to take part, plug in and enable their car batteries to be used for V2G.
We can expect that in the future on a larger scale, consumers are being rewarded if they are willing to enable their car batteries to be used as balancing elements.
5. HOW WILL VEHICLE-TO-GRID BECOME MAINSTREAM?
V2G solutions are ready to hit the market and start doing their magic. Yet, some hurdles need to be overcome before V2G becomes the mainstream energy management tool.
A. V2G technology and devices
Multiple hardware providers have developed device models compatible with vehicle-to-grid technology. Just like any other charging devices, V2G chargers already come in many shapes and sizes.
Usually, the maximum charging power is around 10 kW — just enough for home or workplace charging. In the future, even wider charging solutions will apply.
Vehicle-to-grid charging devices are DC chargers, since this way the cars' own unidirectional on-board chargers can be bypassed. There have been also projects where a vehicle has an onboard DC charger and the vehicle can be plugged into an AC charger. However, this is not a common solution today.
To wrap up, devices exist and are feasible, yet there's still room for improvement as the technology matures.
B. V2G compatible vehicles
Currently, CHAdeMo vehicles (such as Nissan) have outpaced other car manufacturers by bringing V2G compatible car models to the market. All Nissan Leafs on the market can be discharged with vehicle-to-grid stations. The ability to support V2G is a real thing for vehicles and many other manufacturers will hopefully join the club of vehicle-to-grid compatibles soon. For instance, Mitsubishi has also announced plans to commercialize V2G with Outlander PHEV.
C. Cooperation: Car manufacturers and the energy sector must step in
Vehicle-to-grid is only one (but very impactful) example of the energy management possibilities that EVs offer us for the future. The thing is that energy and mobility sectors will converge in the future, with or without V2G. We believe that it is with.
However, big wheels turn slowly and there is some resistance to change. Nissan is showing a great example to other car manufacturers to start cooperating with the energy sector in order to develop something new and life-changing, and to look boldly into the future. The car industry is going through a revolution like never before. Combining forces with the energy sector offers the car industry a chance to begin a new heyday.
The same goes for the energy sector: As energy efficiency increases and more renewables step in, the ongoing change will be drastic for the electrical grid. The energy sector must find new ways to balance energy production and consumption. Luckily, EVs are ready to lend a hand.
D. New European standard
The demand response markets in Europe are growing over 20 percent growth rate. V2G is one of the most promising tools in the demand response markets. No wonder then that the V2G market is projected to grow to over $ 5 billion between 2020-2024.
At the moment the V2G is still a project-based business, but this is all about to change. V2G will soon become a commercially profitable business and there will be more and more vehicle to grid companies surfacing.
The new European ISO 15118-20 standard will be released in 2021. The new standard will accelerate the V2G market because it enables bidirectional power transfer for multiple cars. In practice, this means that EV battery capacity for energy management will grow heavily in the next couple of years., For example, European car manufactures will implement bidirectional charging. This will be the peak battery capacity for the European electricity system.
The first V2G projects are running and vehicle-to-grid solutions have been implemented. V2G will become a vital solution first in locations where the energy system is the most volatile. The most important thing, despite the location, is that the installed charging devices are smart – otherwise, all of the smart energy management features will be inaccessible.
When V2G has been implemented extensively enough, EVs can also support the grid in a state of emergency. If extreme weather conditions cause breaks in electricity, electric vehicles can maintain power for basic needs until the problem is fixed. This will make the electricity system less vulnerable and less dependent on external conditions.
Now we just need all the players to start making the most of the largest and most cost-efficient energy storage that we have — electric vehicles.