Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) experiments are happening in many places. EVs store electricity from the grid in their batteries, but electricity doesn’t care which way it flows. Some of that stored electricity can flow back onto the grid under certain conditions. In an ideal world, all vehicles would be battery-electrics that could store energy from renewable sources when supply is high and return some of it back to the grid when the supply of renewable energy is low. Batteries can also help control voltage and frequency variations on the grid, something baseload generators and peaker plants can’t do.
Vehicle-To-Grid In Massachusetts
Electric school buses are ideal candidates for use in V2G applications. They sit idle during the day when schools are in session, which allows them to soak up lots of excess electricity generated mid-day when the output from solar power plants is highest. They also are parked when the school day ends, which allows them to feed electricity back to the grid when demand increases but solar output declines.
Thomas Built Buses makes Saf-T-Liner Jouley battery electric school buses using batteries supplied by Proterra. In the summer of 2021, one of those buses was used in a vehicle-to-grid experiment to test how well the V2G technology works. According to School Bus Fleet, that one bus sent nearly three MWh of energy back to the grid in 30 instances spanning a total of 60 hours.
That experiment involved National Grid, Proterra, Thomas Built Buses, Rhombus Energy Solutions, and Highland Electric Fleets — a provider of fleet electrification as a service, and several other partners. This summer, two electric buses were included in the experiment and supplied more than 7 MWh of electricity to the grid. The Rhombus Energy Solutions 60 kW high power DC fast charger, certified to UL 1741-SA standards, can provide bi-directional charging capabilities for up to five school buses per power control system.
“Electric school buses are ideal assets for V2G applications,” says Sean Leach, director of technology and platform management at Highland, in a press release. “Nearly 500,000 school buses in North America spend most of their time parked. Fossil fuel-powered buses provide no value when idle. Electric buses, on the other hand, can be used effectively as mobile batteries when not transporting students to provide additional power that supports grid stability and resiliency. We’re excited to work with top tier partners to scale V2G programs and benefits to other communities.”
“Communities across the country are transitioning to a 100% clean energy and clean transportation future,” said Chris Bailey, president of Proterra Powered & Energy. “Electric school buses can play an important role in driving this switch — bringing a cleaner, quieter mode of transportation for our students while also supporting a more local and resilient energy system by delivering stored energy back to the grid when it’s needed most.”
The lessons learned from the past two summers will enable National Grid and other utilities to scale similar V2G programs in the future for more sustainable energy systems. The partners now plan to offer the service to school bus operators in Vermont, Maryland, Colorado, California, and Virginia.
Vehicle-To-Grid In Red Hook
Last week, Revel, NineDot Energy, and Fermata Energy announced that the first V2G program connected to the New York City grid is now in operation at Revel’s warehouse in Brooklyn. Revel partnered with V2G and V2X provider Fermata Energy and clean energy developer NineDot Energy to deploy a bi-directional charging system that can send energy stored in EV batteries back to the ConEdison grid.
The V2G system uses three Fermata Energy bi-directional chargers that send energy back to the grid from 2 pm and 6 pm when the demand for electricity is highest. The three bidirectional chargers can export approximately 45kW back to the grid.
“NineDot Energy is excited to see this V2G program come into operation, as we believe electric vehicles and V2G charging can play an important role in decarbonizing our environment. As a leading developer of urban community-scale energy projects, we see significant potential for V2G to augment the battery energy storage solutions we are building in the New York City and surrounding areas, and we look forward to hosting these capabilities at some of our sites,” said David Arfin, CEO of NineDot Energy.
NineDot Energy and Fermata Energy activated the V2G system at Revel’s Red Hook warehouse following a successful testing period conducted over the summer. The V2G system currently operates with Nissan LEAF EVs but the partners expect to incorporate more EV models as V2G technology becomes more available.
“With the right technology, EVs support grid resilience rather than acting as just a grid drain. That’s an important change that New York and Con Edison are bringing to the industry,” said David Slutzky, CEO of Fermata Energy. “Both Revel and NineDot are forward thinking companies that understand the importance of V2G and V2X technologies in supporting the grid and decarbonization, and we are honored to be working with them.”
Vehicle-to-grid technology is in its infancy, but a lot of people and companies are taking an interest in it. Ford has partnered with Sunrun to allow owners of its new F-150 Lightning electric pickup trucks equipped with the Intelligent Backup Power System connected to a Home Integration System. to power their homes using the batteries in their vehicles. While Ford is focused on the ability to power a home during a blackout, Duke Energy in Florida is now working on a pilot program that uses the F-150 Lightning in a V2G system. Owners who participate receive a stipend of $25 a month.
It’s fair to say utility companies have been reluctant to jump into the world of distributed power, where electricity gets fed in at the margins instead of at a centrally located generating facility at the center of the grid. It takes a while for new ideas to break through conventional wisdom, but utility companies are looking at investing major sums of money to install grid scale battery systems. If they could tap into vehicle batteries to perform much the same service, why wouldn’t they?
Many automakers are interested in vehicle-to-home systems as well. For new car customers, the ability to use their car as a zero emissions emergency generator is a powerful selling point. Going from V2H to V2G involves installing some extra hardware, but if drivers could actually reduce their monthly utility bills by doing so, many would see that as a positive thing. Expect to hear about more vehicle-to-grid pilot programs in the months to come.
Update: Synop is an end-to-end EV software platform that bridges charging, fleet operations, and energy management into a single, intuitive solution to take care of all fleet electrification needs. By providing telematics integration, smart routing, and AI-driven forecasting tools, Synop makes charging more accessible, reduces the administrative burden on fleet managers, and enables fleets to scale with multiple vehicle classes and charging partners quickly. It was one of the partners in the vehicle to grid experiment in Massachusetts.
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