Electric vehicles are projected to take over the roads in the coming decades, but it’s their capability as a power storage source well beyond their own driving needs that increasingly captures the attention of the government, the private sector and investors.
It’s known as “vehicle-to-everything” technology (V2X) and it represents a growth area for the automakers themselves, as well as chip companies and other tech interests. One industry report said it expects the global automotive V2X market to reach $3.3 billion by 2026, essentially up from zero.
On Wednesday, the Department of Energy along with DOE National Labs, California state and local government officials, utilities and private entities, announced a joint effort to commercialize the technologies that allow EVs to securely send extra power back to the national electricity grid. Specifically, the effort involves bidirectional plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs).
The announcement was made at a net-zero-emissions electricians training facility in Commerce, Calif.
The technology can also be leveraged to help commercial buildings save money on heating, cooling and lighting costs, and to provide backup power to homes, essentially a four-wheeled generator in the garage. It could also create new revenue opportunities for EV owners.
“Integrating charging technology that powers vehicles and simultaneously pushes energy back into the electrical grid is a win-win for the future of clean transportation and our energy resilience overall,” Deputy Secretary of Energy Dave Turk said.
The International Energy Agency estimates there will be 130 million electric vehicles
on the road globally by 2030. In addition to increasing electricity demand, these EVs in total will contain 10 times the amount of energy storage needed by the grid. The IEA’s most aggressive estimate — at 250 million EVs by 2030 — would mean that 6% of the batteries in the automotive fleet could potentially meet all the grid’s energy storage needs.
Some examples are already on the market, or about to be.
Hyundai Motor Co.
announced earlier this month it is running two V2X pilot projects in the Netherlands and Germany featuring fleets of modified IONIQ 5 models that are equipped with customized V2G-capable software. “V2G” is sometimes used to describe the grid-specific link, under the umbrella of V2X.
Ford Motor Co.’s
all-electric 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning can power construction or camping gear through power outlets and USB chargers, and can act as a home generator if your power goes out.
Added strain from more EV use and a migration away from natural-gas heating to electric heating has raised some concerns from energy-sector observers who note spotty performance from an aging power grid when put to big tests. The grid needs an upgrade and it will have to be weaned off natural gas
and coal to more solar, wind, nuclear, geothermal and hydrogen sources in order to be truly called “clean” electricity. In other words, EV developments that keep the grid’s needs in mind are most likely to find traction.
“The grid directly distributes renewable energy from solar or wind power to users. With the application of V2G, renewable energy can be stored in battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and fed back to the grid when it cannot be generated, for example at night or when there is no wind, or at peak times,” Hyundai explained in its release.
The memorandum of understanding announced Wednesday establishes a collaboration for accelerating development and commercialization of V2X technologies, which Biden administration officials said could contribute to the “green economy” job growth it likes to promote when talking about climate-change policy. DOE acknowledges some compliance barriers in returning power to the grid, and sees its role as lowering these barriers.
“Bringing together critical infrastructure teams and DOE is essential in order to accelerate the deployment of V2X/bi-directional charging. DOE can play an important role in driving the compliance to a standard that allows rapid adoption and moves us all closer to our zero emission goals,” said Rick Sander, CEO of Rhombus Energy Solutions, a signatory.
In all, the collaboration includes automakers, charging equipment providers, industry associations, labor unions, utilities, national labs, public agencies and others.
The MOU will also advance cybersecurity as a core component of V2X charging infrastructure.
The location of the announcement is meaningful. California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order in 2020 calling for the end of the sale of gasoline-powered cars in the state by 2035. The state already accounts for 40% of all U.S. zero-emission cars.
V2X technology also refers to the advanced software that runs select autos already and will even more in the future: for instance, supplying data directly from cars to improve GPS traffic alerts or trigger stoplights, and automatically alerting smart-phone-holding pedestrians when they’re at risk from the approaching vehicle.
“The increasing number of cars on road and the resulting congestion has prompted various governments to implement automotive V2X solutions to reduce fuel wastage and reduce carbon emissions,” a Global Industry Analysts Inc. report said. “Rising environmental concerns and the need for real-time traffic flow alerts are expected to drive the demand for automotive V2X technology. The market growth is also catalyzed by ongoing advances related to driverless cars.”
The industry report said impacted companies as this market evolves likely include: Cisco Systems