Vehicle-to-grid plan lets drivers return electricity

2nd November 2017
Alice Matthews

In the connected car sector, the 'V2' prefix is familiar shorthand, referring to technology that links vehicles to various other properties. These commonly centre around over-the-air connections enabled by telematics technology. Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) tech allows cars to 'speak' to one another, which can mitigate the risk of collisions and establish safer, more efficient traffic patterns. Vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) enables cars to connect directly to systems like traffic lights or toll booths to ensure that they are safely and effectively navigating the roads.

Author: Justin Tejada, The Connected Car

The idea is that, someday, all relevant aspects of traffic will be communicating with one another.

There is another V2 formulation, though, that deals with a different kind of connectivity.

V2G stands for vehicle-to-grid and refers to the the ability of electric or hybrid vehicles to interact with power grids. A significant announcement was made in this space on 19th October when Mitsubishi Motors announced that it will be launching a pilot programme in the Netherlands where Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) would become compatible with two-way chargers that allowed vehicles to both charge from power grids and, when appropriate, send electricity back to those same grids.

The programme will be established in partnership with European EV charging company NewMotion, Dutch grid operator TenneT and V2G specialist Nuvve.

"There is a shift towards more and more renewable energy such as wind and solar, but both sources are still too dependent on the weather and therefore variable and volatile," NewMotion CEO Sytse Zuidema noted in a statement. "With V2G-technology, we turn parked electric vehicles--at home and at work--into power service providers and energy buffers. They can save a surplus of energy and return energy to the grid at a peak time. This results in more stability and security."

Aside from a new kind of physical interaction, V2G has a number of similarities with V2V and V2I.

In the same way that V2V helps cars automatically maintain appropriate distance between each other and V2I lets stoplights cater to the exact number of cars on the road, V2G establishes a form of communication between EVs and the power grid to distribute power in a way that maximises utility for all parties.

"Volatility increases with the growing electricity production from renewable sources. Supply and demand must always be in balance," TenneT CEO Mel Kroon wrote in the announcement. "Therefore, TenneT is looking for new decentralised sources to provide flexibility. This pilot project is part of a broader strategy and portfolio of pilots preparing the electricity system to accommodate the growing volume of renewable energy."

In its statement, Mitsubishi teased the idea of a 'potential earnings model for electric drivers'. How that might work remains unclear, but the idea that an electric vehicle owner could receive money for delivering stored power back to the electrical grid could be a big enticement toward converting owners of cars with internal combustion engines into owners of EVs.

While this is just a pilot programme for now, V2G is very promising, and could represent an entirely new way of thinking about electric vehicles.

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