Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) charging technology will change how we use Electric Cars and presents new possibilities for the UK energy grid.
V2G technology enables EVs to interact directly with the power grid, not just as electricity consumers, but as portable power storage units that can feed energy back into the grid when needed. This feature can help balance power demand, contribute to grid stability, and potentially provide cash benefits to EV owners.
V2G comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities that we cover in this article. Let’s explore Vehicle-to-Grid charging, its potential impact, current limitations, and the exciting future possibilities yet to come with this technology.
What is vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging?
Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) charging is a system that allows electric cars to return unused electricity back to the power grid.
This two-way interaction not only charges the EV’s battery but also allows the vehicle to serve as a mobile energy storage unit, helping balance grid demand, improving stability, and potentially providing economic benefits to the EV owner.
How does vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging work?
Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) charging represents a substantial leap in how EV owners use their electric vehicles.
V2G uses bidirectional charging for energy transfer, meaning that EVs can not only draw power from the grid for charging their batteries but also supply power back to the grid when it is needed. Here’s how the process works:
- Charging the vehicle
Similar to conventional charging, the EV is connected to a home charging station to draw power from the grid for charging its battery. This is typically done during off-peak hours when energy demand is low, and electricity is relatively cheaper.
- Monitoring the grid
Advanced software systems, integrated with both the grid and the EV, constantly monitor the state of the national power grid. During periods when there is an excess supply of electricity, the software triggers the EV to charge its battery, effectively storing the surplus energy.
- Discharging power
During times of high energy demand or supply shortages, the software can instruct the EV to return the stored energy from its battery back into the grid. This helps balance the grid, preventing potential blackouts and maintaining grid stability.
- Bidirectional charger
The heart of the V2G system is a bidirectional charger. Unlike regular EV chargers or granny chargers, both of which only allow power to flow from the grid to the vehicle, a bidirectional charger allows power to flow in both directions. This two-way flow of electricity is crucial for the operation of V2G systems.
- Get paid for your power
One of the potential benefits of V2G technology for EV owners is the possibility of making a profit on electricity. Once the system is up and running in the UK, depending on the utility company, EV owners may receive payment or credit for the power they supply back to the grid.
Which energy companies have vehicle-to-grid (V2G)?
V2G trials have just closed so currently there are no companies providing this in the UK, this will likely change once the results of the trials are published.
When it comes to pioneering vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology, three energy companies in the UK have led the way:
Octopus Electric Vehicles
These three companies have invested time and resources into trialling V2G technology, playing instrumental roles in paving the way for V2G in the future.
The companies were awarded an Innovate UK Grant in 2018, triggering the conception of the trials: to integrate V2G technology into everyday life, transforming the way we view electric vehicles and their role in our energy systems.
In 2020, the trial kicked off. The companies signed up participants for the trial, and in 2021 they started to roll out the trial. Chargers were installed and EVs were delivered to customers, marking the first real-world integration of V2G technology into the homes of everyday consumers.
The trial closed to new participants in 2021 and the focus shifted to improving the customer experience and developing V2G tariffs. Simultaneously, data collection from smart chargers, cars, and smart meters.
Electric Nation, Octopus Electric Vehicles, and Ovo Energy are now in a phase of careful analysis. They will interpret the vast amounts of data collected from the V2G chargers, the EVs, and the smart meters.
This dataset holds insights into consumer behaviour, energy usage patterns, grid stability factors, and the overall efficacy of V2G technology in a real-world environment.
Reports on the trials’ outcomes are eagerly anticipated and expected soon. These will shed light on the practical performance of V2G technology, the readiness of our grid infrastructure, and the challenges and benefits faced by the EV owners involved.
Which cars have vehicle-to-grid (V2G) in the UK?
Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) technology is steadily gaining traction, with various car makers in the UK and beyond actively researching, testing, and developing this technology. Here’s where some of these major players stand:
Nissan vehicle-to-grid (V2G)
Nissan is presently the only car maker in the UK that offers CHAdeMO charging technology on electric vehicles, specifically the Nissan LEAF and Nissan e-NV200 van.
While the Nissan Ariya SUV will use a different charging technology (CCS), Nissan is considering how to implement V2G for this and future models, as the company recognises the significant benefits of bi-directional charging.
BMW vehicle-to-grid (V2G)
BMW is actively involved in V2G development. The company is leading a consortium in Germany to study bidirectional charging, and they’ve been trialling it with 50 BMW i3 vehicles since early 2021.
BMW sees the integration of electric vehicles into the power grid as a key innovation, albeit one that requires significant advancements in vehicle technology, charging infrastructure, management, and legal parameters. International rollout plans beyond the trial are yet to be announced.
Tesla vehicle-to-grid (V2G)
Tesla has not yet implemented V2H or Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) technology in their vehicles, but they said it is a target to have done so by 2026.
Elon Musk has expressed scepticism about the real-world utility of V2G. During the 2023 Tesla Investors Day held at the Tesla Giga Factory, Musk was asked about his views on bi-directional charging and using vehicles to power homes: “I don’t think many people will use bi-directional charging unless you have a Powerwall because if you unplug your car, your house goes dark and this is extremely inconvenient.”
Ford vehicle-to-grid (V2G)
Ford is exploring vehicle-to-home (V2H) technology, which could offset the potential cost increase and a slight reduction in battery life associated with V2G technology. Further details are pending based on the success of their trials.
Volkswagen (VW) vehicle-to-grid (V2G)
In partnership with E.ON, a major power provider in Northern Europe, VW is testing V2G technology with an electric car and charging station, although this is currently taking place in Germany.
Peugeot vehicle-to-grid (V2G)
This French car maker has successfully implemented V2G technology in several hundred of its Peugeot Ion models in France, in collaboration with Électricité de France (EDF).
FIAT vehicle-to-grid (V2G)
FIAT is working on integrating V2G technology into its electric city cars, with the goal of using excess power generated at night to recharge EV batteries during the day.
Fiat also sees potential for these systems to provide backup power during emergencies like power outages or natural disasters.
Audi vehicle-to-grid (V2G)
Audi is conducting a research project focused on integrating electric vehicles with bidirectional charging to enhance network stability, reduce electricity costs, and contribute to climate protection.
Audi is also looking into how Audi e-tron EV batteries could supply a single-family home with energy for around a week. Audi aims to roll out grid integration applications with different use cases, including V2H and V2G, to be introduced in phases over the following years.
Which home chargers have vehicle-to-grid (V2G) in the UK?
There are some Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) chargers available already in the UK market:
- Wallbox Quasar 2
The Wallbox Quasar2 is designed for both Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) and Vehicle-to-Home (V2H) usage. It allows for two-way energy flow enabling not just the charging of the EV, but also the ability to discharge an EV’s battery and provide energy back to the grid or home.
- OVO Vehicle-to-Grid Charger
UK energy supplier OVO has its own V2G charger, which was developed in partnership with the Japanese firm, CHAdeMO. It allows Nissan EV owners to sell surplus energy back to the grid.
- Nuvve’s GIVe V2G platform
Nuvve offers V2G-enabled charging stations that allow for two-way energy flow, facilitating energy storage and later use.
- Setec Power V2G Charger
Setec Power provides a bi-directional AC charger that supports V2G technology.
- EVTeC & Honda Power Manager
In a collaborative project, Honda and EVTeC have unveiled a V2G compatible charger that can also provide power back to the grid.
How much does a V2G charger cost?
The cost of a Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) charger is much higher than the cost of a standard EV charger and can vary significantly based on the specifications of the unit and its power capacity.
There are few off-the-shelf options yet in the UK, but when you look at the equivalent costs in the US market, we can expect the cost of an installed V2G charger to range anywhere from £2000 to £6000 or more.
In addition to the cost of the unit itself, you also need to consider the cost of installation.
While the upfront cost might seem high, the potential future savings from V2G technology should also be considered. Being able to sell energy back to the grid during peak demand periods could offset some of the initial costs over time – once the UK is up and running and ready to facilitate V2G.
Is V2G the same as V2L?
Both V2G and V2L involve the use of an EV’s battery to supply power, but they perform different functions. Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) involves supplying power back to the electrical grid, while Vehicle-to-Load (V2L) involves directly powering electrical devices or systems.
Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) is a technology that allows electric vehicles to feed power back into the main power grid. This means that EVs can contribute to the overall stability and reliability of the power grid.
Vehicle-to-Load (V2L) enables an electric vehicle to directly power electrical devices or systems. The battery of an EV essentially becomes a mobile power source. This can be particularly beneficial for things like powering camping equipment or other outdoor gear. In emergency situations or power outages, EVs can be used to provide power directly to the home.
The final word on vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging
Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) charging represents a significant evolution in the way we think about energy consumption and electric vehicles. I believe we will soon see an era where electric vehicles not only serve as a way to get around but also act as mobile power units that interact directly with our energy grid.
V2G charging allows electric vehicles to give power back to the grid during peak demand periods, thereby improving grid resilience, supporting renewable energy integration, and potentially even providing an additional revenue stream for EV owners.
It’s a win-win situation, as we’re leveraging an already existing resource – the batteries in EVs – to create a more efficient and sustainable energy system.
Trials and real-world implementations by leading energy companies have set the stage for the wide-scale adoption of V2G technology, promising exciting progress in the near future.
With advancements in compatible vehicles and charger availability, V2G could soon be a commonplace feature of our energy landscape.
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John is the Editor and Spokesperson for Electric Car Guide.
With over 20 years of writing experience, he has written for titles such as City AM, FE News and NerdWallet.com, covering various automotive and personal finance topics.
John’s market commentary has been covered by the likes of The Express, The Independent, Yahoo Finance and The Evening Standard.