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What is vehicle-to-grid?

Vehicle-to-grid technology is the future of sustainability in renewable energy. Here’s what you need to know.
Couple driving an electric vehicle near windmills

Electric vehicle (EV) adoption is increasing, with global sales rising by over 30% in 2023. With more EVs on the road, there are increased incentives to build additional infrastructure and develop new technologies that make EVs more efficient and cost-effective. 

However, with the increased adoption rate comes a more significant strain on power grids to meet the energy needs of EVs in addition to the homes, businesses, and devices already in use. Vehicle-to-grid technology aims to solve this problem, transforming a potential obstacle into a crucial component of energy grid infrastructure. 

What is vehicle-to-grid technology?

Vehicle-to-grid (also known as V2G) is a smart-charging technology that enables electric vehicles to push unused energy from their internal battery storage back into the electric grid. 

Typically, devices that rely on electric charging convert alternating current (AC) into direct current (DC), storing it in a lithium-ion battery for future use. V2G technology takes this stored DC energy and converts it back into AC electricity.

The ultimate goal of vehicle-to-grid technology is to allow EVs to act as a functional part of the electric grid. Electric grids can pull this energy from idle cars during peak hours to reduce the overall strain and maximize energy efficiency.

How does vehicle-to-grid work?

Modern V2G implementation uses bidirectional conversion technology to transfer energy to and from an EV. When a vehicle connects to a vehicle-to-grid charger, the EV begins charging and stores energy within its battery. If the car is idle and the grid senses increased demand, it can tap into this reserve energy source and use the EV as an additional cell. 

Beyond transferring energy from EV batteries back to the grid, vehicle-to-grid technology can work with charger software to automate energy redirection. For example, an EV may require two hours of charging to reach full capacity, but the charger can slow the process to six hours to avoid consumption at peak grid times. This technology, known as unidirectional vehicle-to-grid, allows EVs to contribute to overall grid stability, even if they lack bidirectional conversion capabilities.

Why is vehicle-to-grid important?

Vehicle-to-grid technology improves energy generation capacity, enhances electric grid reliability, makes energy costs more stable, and maximizes the impact of renewable energy sources.

Renewable energy operates differently than traditional methods of energy generation, like oil or coal. When sources like wind or solar power generate renewable energy, that energy must either be used immediately or stored for future use. Surplus energy is usually held in batteries. However, as EV adoption increases, overall energy demands will grow, outpacing the ability to create new batteries for both industries. And with similar material demands—like lithium and other minerals, as well as the labor required to build them—manufacturers currently need to make a tough decision: Do they create enough stationary batteries to meet the demands of the growing renewable power grid, or do they create EV batteries to meet the demands of the consumer transition to electric?

Vehicle-to-grid solves this problem by turning every single EV currently in use into a portable storage cell. V2G expands the energy grid’s capabilities with EV adoption and ensures that every battery has a purpose and operates at peak efficiency.

Benefits of vehicle-to-grid technology

Vehicle-to-grid technology, when fully implemented, has the potential to deliver significant efficiencies and cost savings, including:

  • Increased sustainability of renewable energy: One of the most significant challenges in developing sustainable, cost-effective renewable energy is ensuring that generated electricity is either used or stored without being wasted. By adapting EVs into expanded battery storage, renewable sources like wind and solar become much more reliable energy sources.
  • Reduces energy costs: Making renewable energy grids more reliable also means that energy prices are more stable, leading to significant cost savings. Studies show that V2G technology could lower average charging prices by as much as 67%
  • Provide an emergency source of energy: Electric vehicle batteries can store enough energy to power the average household for up to two days, making them beneficial sources of emergency energy during power outages. With this technology, buildings equipped with vehicle-to-grid chargers can pull energy from these vehicles to keep the lights on. 

Challenges of achieving mainstream vehicle-to-grid adoption

Despite these benefits, several roadblocks are preventing the mainstream rollout of V2G technology, such as:

  • Ensuring vehicles have enough power at all times: Idle EVs must be ready to transport passengers at a moment's notice. Charging stations must dynamically adjust consumption to recoup energy from V2G technology. They must be smart enough to ensure EV batteries have the power to operate while still meaningfully contributing to the grid. 
  • Increasing adoption and compatibility: While bidirectional charging technology is making its way into commercial and consumer vehicle operation, most charging technology remains unidirectional.

Future-proof your EV charging deployments with ChargeLab

Once V2G technology becomes mainstream, most chargers will need intelligent software to maximize its use. At ChargeLab, we’re readying for that future. 

ChargeLab hardware-agnostic EV charger software. It can turn any OCPP charger into a smart charger, complete with station monitoring, load balancing, and vehicle management. Plus, its flexible architecture allows for a wide range of hardware and software integrations, including upcoming support for ISO 15118 for vehicle-to-grid communication. 

Want to future-proof your EV charging deployments and make them more sustainable? Contact us today.

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