Ford has teamed up with Sunrun to make vehicle-to-home (V2H) technology available to people who buy an F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck. In a press announcement, Sunrun says it will “facilitate easy installation of the 80-amp Ford Charge Station Pro and home integration system.”
The home hookup is made possible by the 80 amp Ford Charge Station Pro, which is standard with the long-range version of the truck and optional with the standard range vehicle. According to Car and Driver, the F-150 Lightning can feed 9.6 kilowatts of power through the larger bottom ports of the CCS plug and back into a home’s power panel. When power is restored to the grid, the Charge Station Pro will revert to replenishing the Lightning’s battery.
Ford claims the Lightning could power a home for up to 3 days during a power outage. That’s an estimate and assumes the homeowner will take reasonable steps to reduce energy usage as much as possible until grid power is restored. People may have to do without heating their hot tubs, for instance, or having a constant supply of hot water on demand.
“Easy installation” is a relative term. 80 amps is a lot of electricity and may require major revisions to a home’s electrical panel. On older homes that are still limping along with 100 amp service, an entirely new electrical panel may need to be installed and such upgrades are anything but cheap.
“Through this partnership, customers will also be provided with the opportunity to install a solar and battery system on their home, enabling them to power their household with clean, affordable energy and charge their F-150 Lightning with the power of the sun. Sunrun will provide customers with installation services and access to home solar energy systems,” the press release says.
Lynn Jurich, CEO of Sunrun, adds, “Ford is a trusted brand that’s been at the forefront of American innovation for over 100 years, and it is exciting to see them electrifying their most popular truck in company history. We’re at the beginning stages of a partnership that can bring energy resilience to millions of Americans across the country.”
Jurich has every right to be optimistic, but in reality, the scuttlebutt is that Ford has only ordered enough batteries to build 80,000 F-150 Lightnings. Those batteries will be produced at the new SK Innovation battery factory in Georgia. It will be quite a while before there are millions of Ford’s all electric wonder truck on American roads.
Is V2G Next?
The prospect of millions of electric vehicles connected to the electrical grid makes visions of sugar plums dance in the heads of renewable energy advocates. “Let’s be real,” Pamela MacDougall, senior manager of grid modernization engineering and strategy for the Environmental Defense Fund, tells Curbed. “The wind isn’t always blowing.”
In theory, a lot of renewable energy from solar and wind farms could be stored in the batteries of F-150 Lightnings and other light, medium, and heavy duty trucks. Electric school buses, too. “Now we’re finally able to tap this valuable resource,” MacDougall says. “This is a huge step in the right direction.”
Volkswagen has announced all of its ID. branded cars will be V2G capable starting in 2022. EV Connect is already conducting trials of V2G systems in the US. In theory, we shouldn’t be building one set of batteries to power vehicles and another set of batteries to store electricity from renewables.
One consideration is that using batteries to send electricity back to the grid may (or may not, the evidence is not fully clear at this point) lead to shorter battery life. Add in that some battery chemistries may be more appropriate for storage while others are better for powering vehicles and the calculus becomes murkier. On the plus side, depending on local policies, F-150 Lightning owners could earn money by allowing their vehicle to supply backup power to the grid. It’s complicated but it’s fair to say that V2G is in its infancy and no one knows all the right answers right now.
In a perfect world, renewable energy would power 90% of our needs, every device with a battery would be connected to the grid and to each other in real time, and AI algorithms would control the flow of electrons between energy sources, energy storage devices, and energy consumers like vehicles, water heaters, heat pumps, and all the other devices we rely on to make life more pleasant. The era of distributed renewables and microgrids would become a reality instead of a dream.
Will we ever get to that point? Probably not, but it’s a good goal to strive for. The hype around the Ford F-150 Lightning may be a bit overheated at the moment, but there is no question its announcement has altered the conversation about electric vehicles, especially in America, and that’s a very good thing.