Bidirectional Charging: What It Is And How Electric Vehicle Drivers Can Benefit
Updated: Jan 7, 2022
During power safety shutoffs in California, millions of residents have been without power to mitigate the wildfire risk. Many electric vehicle (EV) drivers have been frustrated that they couldn’t use the electricity in their car batteries to power their homes or other critical loads. Despite having energy storage capabilities with their EV batteries, they could only access the electricity for powering their vehicle.
Increasingly, EV owners can power critical loads, either by purchasing a wall box unit or from the cars themselves. Bidirectional charging systems offer numerous benefits to households and even utility companies. Understanding how bidirectional charging works is critical when potential solar customers have questions. It also enables solar installers to create a clean energy system that maximizes the value of the EV and minimizes disruption from power outages. Keep in mind that there are incentives available to home and business owners that install a charging station.
Bidirectional charging is a hot topic right now, and it is likely to grow in popularity as the capabilities of EVs expand over time. As a result, several automakers have announced they are releasing vehicles with bidirectional abilities, including Ford, Hyundai, Lucid, and Tesla.
What Is Bidirectional Charging?
As the name describes, bidirectional charging is EV charging that goes two ways: pulling power from the grid to charge the EV’s battery and supplying electricity for other loads from the battery as needed. An EV can help power a home, business, the utility grid, another vehicle, or specific loads with bidirectional charging.
Currently, the Nissan Leaf has bidirectional charging abilities and requires installing a power supply center in the home to take advantage of this power for household use. The Ford 150 Lightning, coming out in 2022, can deliver 9.6 kW of power to a home for several days through the home’s electrical panel. This set-up requires Ford’s Charge Station Pro and a 100-amp circuit. The 2022 Hyundai Ioniq can also power loads and supply 3.6 kW of electricity.
How Does Bidirectional Charging Work?
Alternating current (AC) power from the grid is converted to direct current (DC) voltage that is stored in the car’s battery while charging. Then, EV drivers can access the power in the battery to power a home or add power back to the electricity grid. For this to happen, the power is converted from DC to AC electricity. A converter in the vehicle or in the charger itself performs this function.
One such product is the Wallbox Quasar, a bidirectional DC charger for home use. It features a CHAdeMO or CCS Type 1 connector and includes an app with some energy management abilities.
What Are The Different Types Of Bidirectional Charging?
Bidirectional charging can be used in different applications, depending on needs and capabilities.
Vehicle To Grid (V2G)
This involves vehicles communicating with the utility grid and supplying power as needed. Many people believe bidirectional charging will be a critical component of the power grid of the future and the increased use of renewable energy.
V2G capabilities enable charging EV batteries with renewable energy, such as wind and solar, when they are available. Then, the EV provides power to the grid from the batteries to supplement when not in use and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Vehicle To Home (V2H)
With this approach, an electric car can provide power to a home or office through its electrical panel and is especially helpful during power outages. Also, households that pay time-of-use rates could save money by using power from their EV battery during times of peak energy demand and charging the battery when electricity rates are lower.
For a home to receive power from an EV with V2H capabilities, it needs a power control system connected to the home’s electrical distribution center. Then, the vehicle must be plugged into the charger to pull electricity.
Vehicle To Load (V2L)
Vehicles with V2L capabilities have a built-in DC to AC inverter plus a standard power outlet. It enables people to plug their loads into the outlet, using power from the battery. EVs with these capabilities include the Ford F150 Lightning, Rivian R1T, Hyundai Ioniq, Kia EV6, and Tesla Cybertruck.
Vehicle To Vehicle (V2V)
Unfortunately, EVs have a range limiting how far they can travel between charges. The capacity of the EV battery, efficiency of the vehicle, and outdoor temperature all impact the vehicle range. V2V charging is one way to help overcome range anxiety because this feature enables an EV to provide some power to another.
This is a feature many automakers are working on, but only the Ford F150 Lightning and Lucid Air have this capability.
What Are The Benefits Of Bidirectional Charging?
Being able to use the EV battery to power other things has many advantages, both to the EV driver and even utility companies. In fact, EVs could eventually become a key component in a decarbonized grid.
Potential Utility Bill Savings
If the local utility offers time-of-use rates, then electricity prices fluctuate during the day based on demand. Typically, energy prices are highest on weekday afternoons and early evenings in the summer and lowest in the middle of the night. Thus, providing power during peak demand and then either charging with solar panels or from the grid during off-peak times saves money.
Backup Power During Blackouts
A couple of widespread power outages have occurred in the last year or two, including the 2021 Texas Power Crisis and California public safety power shutoffs that left millions without power. EVs with V2H capabilities can power an entire home during a utility outage. The battery capacity and its level of charge determine how many loads and how long an EV can power a home.
Power Beyond The Grid
V2L capabilities enable EVs to power specific loads by plugging into an outlet. This option can be very beneficial when camping or in an area utility power isn’t available. For example, tradespeople can power tools on job sites.
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