But experts agree that the idea is good, but it still faces some technical obstacles to conquer. Also, they warn that mandatory requirements like the one enacted in the California measure could raise the price of electric cars.
According to the plan proposed by a Democratic state senator. Nancy Skinner, all-electric vehicles sold in California from 2027 onwards would require the ability to store power and transmit it. The measure was approved by a Senate Committee this week after passing another committee earlier. Numerous environmental, health, and community groups have backed it, whereas the largest automakers’ trade association opposes it.
The legislation’s goal is to give California power on days that supplies are low, Skinner said at a recent state Senate committee hearing. Also, EVs can make a huge impact, she said.
The state hopes to have 8 million zero-emission vehicles to be on the roads by 2030 “if less than 10 percent of those EVs were to be utilized in this way, it would have more gigawatt capacity” than the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant located in San Luis Obispo County, Calif., Skinner said. “So there’s great potential here.”
Currently, California is on its path to electrifying its automobile fleet.
California announced that over 1.5 million electric automobiles had been sold throughout the state since March ( Climatewire 21st April). The state also announced more than 1 out of five new cars purchased included zero-emissions options. Around 40 percent of EVs purchased in the United States are in the Golden State.
However, experts say more work is required to ensure that EVs are fully ready to connect electricity to the grid.
One problem is the fact that EVs generate direct currents. However, the energy sent to the grid must be alternating. The conversion has to be inside the vehicle or be plugged into a wall outlet.
The requirement that all EVs can be charged via 2-way charging — which is stipulated under the California bill — could cost a few hundred dollars to the cost of a vehicle, according to Gil Tal, director of the Electric Vehicle Research Center at the University of California, Davis. Another option is using equipment known as a vehicle-to-grid-capable charger. However, that’s only several thousand dollars, Tal added.
In addition, Tal said automakers utilize different charging technologies, so there’s no universal wall converter available. Additionally, no regulations encourage drivers to transfer electric vehicle power back to the grid.
Safety concerns are also a problem, said Andrew Meintz, chief engineer for charging electric vehicles and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory grids.
Every inverter connected to the grid must have the Underwriters Laboratories certification. It requires tests “to make sure that it doesn’t catch fire, that doesn’t shock you,” he added. He said the standards have yet to be developed for the grid-to-vehicle applications, and until it’s written, it won’t pass the tests.
He suggested that commercial fleets may be best placed to provide electricity to the grid because their charging schedules and use are more standardized than the plans of individuals driving. Studies on electric buses that supply energy to the grid are also being conducted, and that’s a possible option.
A FEW AUTOMAKERS MOVING AHEAD
However, Certain EVs have been equipped for dual-way charging, such as the Nissan Leaf and the Ford F-150 Lightning truck.
In September, Nissan said a two-way charger from Fermata Energy could be used alongside the Nissan Leaf Model years 2013 and after. Nissan could not be specific about the amount of power that the Leaf could be able to send into the grid.
The EV Ford truck is focused on providing an alternative power source for homes but not the grid.
Ford’s F-150 Lightning truck can power homes during power interruption for up to 3 days or up to 10 days with power rationing, according to the firm. Currently, there’s no option to use the truck to power grids.
However, Tesla plans to have all its vehicles capable of charging two-way “within the next model year,” Skinner told a hearing before the California Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Communications earlier this month.
Tesla has yet to respond to inquiries for details on its plans.
However, Tesla cars are likely to be in the market due to their closed system, Tal explained, in which Tesla produces both EVs and chargers.
Certain EV advocates are against the mandates in the legislation.
“Having a 2027 rollout — which would mean that the engineering has to start now — adds unnecessary cost for kind of a benefit that we’re uncertain of,” said Orville Thomas, the state policy director at CalStart, an organization that promotes green transportation.
The state is implementing a new law that promotes electric vehicles. The regulation prohibits the sale of new gas-powered cars in 2035 or later. The code also requires specific battery specifications, Thomas said. How can two-way charging be compatible with these rules? Thomas said.
“Is that going to mean that the battery needs to be replaced for the second user?” He asked. “Will the state of charge be less because you’re drawing down on the battery and its duty cycles are being compromised?”
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the biggest trade group representing automakers, wrote in a letter addressed to Skinner about the requirement that could increase by more than $3,000 the price of each car. The group said there are also concerns about the grid’s ability to accept two-way charging.
“The many unknowns of how to implement such a complex and nascent technology are too challenging at this time to establish a mandate,” it stated in the letter.
Several utilities are currently developing pilots that study two-way charging and incentives for electric vehicle drivers to recharge their cars at the best time for the grid.
Ford is conducting pilots with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. in the San Francisco region and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. With Pacific Gas and Electric, Ford is testing how its vehicle-to-home technology can help customers who are affected by interruptions to grid power.
Beyond this beyond that, a Ford spokesperson told me in an email the company is testing the ability of vehicles to connect to grids with F-150 Lightning F-150 Lightning in addition to “exploring how a customer’s car’s battery can be used to send power back to the grid, a process that could potentially allow drivers to make money by selling electricity back to utility companies in times of high community power usage.”
In the pilot program with The Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Ford stated that the district is looking into ways to encourage charging during off-peak times.
BMW has conducted several pilot collaborations with PG&E in the last year, looking at incentives to charge off-peak and “exploration of V2G [vehicle-to-grid] possibilities,” Katrina St. Jean, an official BMW spokesperson, wrote by email.
“The BMW Group believes that vehicles can play a larger role in supporting the grid as new vehicle technologies are developed,” she added.