Adding spark to your park: How electric vehicles can give back to the grid

Peter O'Driscoll of RingGo Research

Auto manufacturers are constantly working to improve the electric vehicle (EV) production line. In fact, says Peter O’ Driscoll, managing director, RingGo, new lithium-ion batteries from StoreDot, who provider in fast charging technology, could hail recharging times that make fuelling your EV as easy as topping up petrol at the pump.

These five-minute charging times for EVs are another tick in the ‘pros’ column, but more work needs to be done to encourage uptake to replace petrol and diesel. Even though registration figures from SMMT show a 66.7% increase in EV registrations year-on-year for 2020, these figures are still dwarfed by petrol registrations.

The SMMT is now calling for boosts to charging infrastructure and investment in battery gigafactories to reinvigorate industry and meet ambitious electrification challenges.

Aside from this, there’s a benefit to EVs that is not often discussed, one which could be set to benefit drivers and energy management vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging. This is another feather in the cap of electric vehicles and will likely help motivate drivers to go green by switching to electric.

Watts the deal with giving back to the grid?

The concept works by enabling energy stored within electric vehicles to be drawn back to the national electric network, or the grid. Normally, when there’s a surplus of electricity in the grid, EVs siphon off charge for their batteries.

However, during times of peak demand on the grid or when there’s a shortage of electricity, EVs can discharge their juice back to the grid for a profit.

A parked electric vehicle can be left plugged into the grid. If the driver has opted to be part of a V2G charging program, then software can calculate when that car should tactically receive and supply energy.

Typically, these vehicles charge at night when energy demand is low and send power back to the grid during the day.

Together in electric dreams

The system is a compelling reason for drivers to make the switch to an EV, as it empowers drivers to contribute to a wider, global cause. OVO Energy, the clean energy provider, recently initiated a V2G trial program which connects cars across UK residences to form a virtual power plant. From the trial, the energy provider projected that, with 5.5 million 2G capable EVs in 2030, the fleet could provide 8.6 TWh of balancing over the year, meeting 77% of the grid’s needs.

Despite these environmental benefits, RingGo’s research found that almost a third (32%) of drivers who are open to EVs require a greater availability of charging points to make the switch, whilst one in five (20%) of those currently not considering an EV would consider buying one if their range were greater. Additional hesitancies to make the leap highlight the need for greater knowledge about the capabilities and benefits of electric vehicles.

Essentially, changing ingrained behaviours will be difficult in the lead up to 2030. But now is the time for the government and local authorities to highlight how each individual can contribute to the future of the planet by simply making the switch.

How V2G can motivate positive change

V2G charging is a gift for both drivers and the environment. Financially speaking, drivers have the potential to save a couple of hundreds of pounds per year through the V2G program. Estimates on money saved vary with energy supplier E.ON Energy approximates that customers could save £308 (€354.63)per annum, whereas OVO Energy suggests that customers could save as much as £800 (€921.11) per year.

In addition, when implemented at scale, the system offers exciting opportunities to promote sustainable energy supply. For instance, one of the major aspects that counts against wind power is that its capability fluctuates with the weather. However, EVs could help stabilise this energy source. EVs could store surplus energy produced during windy periods and then supply it back when there’s a lull reducing wind power intermittency.

What’s in store for EVs and V2G

The benefits of V2G charging can really be seen when deployed at scale; large fleets of EVs sending power back to the grid in times of need could provide great balancing capabilities.

What we need to see now is a normalisation of electric vehicles and charging. Change comes from the top the onus is on councils, Government, sustainable companies and industry innovators to boost long-term investment plans and help encourage adoption and positive green attitudes.

When it comes to V2G, new bonus packages from energy suppliers for those engaging in such charging schemes would be a great help.

National promotion strategies co-ordinated by public and private organisational efforts for EVs, ahead of the 2030 ban on the sale of petrol and diesel, will help create a cleaner, healthier and more liveable towns and cities for all in the future.

The author is Peter O’ Driscoll, managing director, RingGo

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