Vehicle to Grid Viability & Market Study

by Dec 17, 2021

  • 96 V2G projects, comprising 6,100 chargers are either underway or have been completed in 22 countries worldwide.
  • V2G allows the users and utilities to pull energy from the car battery when energy systems are more strained, thus balancing variations in energy production and consumption.
  • Despite several products in the market, V2G projects are still in pilot phase, mostly ranging from a proof-of-concept trial to small-scale commercial trials.
  • Unavailability of EV models and impact on EV battery are among major inhibitors for V2G adoption

Introduction

Technological innovations have been an integral part of electric vehicle supply equipment. The path from low powered, simple cables to ultra-fast chargers incorporating advanced communication protocols has evolved steadily over the last two decades. The renewed interest in producing mass-market and affordable electric vehicles came along with a need for deployment of a charging infrastructure. The first generation of chargers, commonly known as ‘dumb’ chargers, provide the batteries with fixed power on connection. These chargers come in the form of a non-networked box and cannot connect to the cloud or be managed remotely. A significant portion of installed infrastructure, specifically the residential and workplace market, is comprised of these chargers.

V1G – Smart Charging via Load Management

Electric vehicles place load on the grid. As the number of electric vehicles increases, the demand for the management of this load consequently grows as well. V1G or smart charging makes it possible to control the charging time and magnitude of charging power from the power source to the EV. These smart chargers upload data to the cloud and are manageable remotely to help reduce burden on the grid when power demand is high. V1G is a demand-side management strategy and with growing electric vehicle numbers, the demand for the management software is on the rise. The load management balances energy demand throughout the day, with a focus on reducing energy usage during peak demands. For individual charging, it helps in shifting the charging session to off-peak timings, when the energy is less expensive or when the grid is not burdened. Utilities and market aggregators (e.g Nuvve, The Mobility House etc.) take part in managed charging programs, offering customers reduced tariffs and financial incentives to control charging sessions, by either reducing the charging power or changing the session time; this is known as demand response, and it helps in shifting their collective demand and optimizes grid services. For sites containing multiple chargers, it manages the power demand to create an equilibrium across sites. It balances the energy among the chargers and streamlines EV charging without affecting electricity delivery to the site. Today, most of the chargers being installed in residences and workplaces are smart chargers.

V2G- Vehicle-to-Grid Charging Fundamentals

Vehicle-to-Grid charging goes a step further than smart charging: it allows the energy stored in the batteries of cars to be fed back into the grid. With V2G technology, it is possible to control the charging time, magnitude as well as direction of power flow. V2G allows the users and utilities to not only time-shift the charging of cars, but also allow them to pull energy from a car battery when energy systems are more strained, thus balancing variations in energy production and consumption. This aspect of V2G has the potential to be cost-effective for the energy market, resulting in decreasing pressure on energy prices, as well as providing income to the owners. Electric vehicles can be used as short-term storage devices for renewables like Photovoltaics, charging during the day and providing power back later. These are increasingly finding applications in Vehicle-to-Home(V2H) and Vehicle-to-Building(V2B). V2G enabled vehicles can also participate in frequency control markets to act as reserve spinners so that the grid remains stable. Vehicle-to-Grid technology requires identification of electric vehicles using the power line or commonly known as ‘plug&charge’.  The incorporation of this technology will help eliminate RFID cards and mobile apps, with charging being automatically started on connection. This system is based on ISO 15118 standard, regulating automatic and safe data exchange between vehicle and charger.

The technology is suitable to be deployed as either on-board AC charging or off-board DC charging. For on-board V2G charging, expensive electronic modifications in vehicles for bi-directional charging are required along with dedicated AC chargers capable of bi-directional power transfer. The Utrecht region of the Netherlands started a region-wide bi-directional AC charging pilot phase in 2019 with more than 400 chargers already been installed. The entire region could be powered for a whole night by just 8,500 bi-directional cars, however, the only vehicle currently capable of bi-directional AC charging is the Renault Zoe.  With the use of off-board DC chargers, the deployment of V2G is simple but expensive with over 20 EVSE manufacturers globally providing such chargers. In the implementation of this charging solution, the V2G charging hardware is in the charging station and only minor modifications are required at the vehicle end. Currently, the DC chargers capable of bi-directional charging offer CHAdeMO connectors only, limiting the utility of these chargers. The industry expects the release of ISO 15118 standard for CCS connectors by the end of 2022 which will boost the adoption of this technology.

Off-board V2G charging is the preferred choice due to its high efficiency, easy deployment, low noise level and faster charging. Furthermore, the application of V2G charging is most suitable for home, apartment, workplace, and fleet operations, where the vehicles are usually parked for longer duration. Owing to these characteristic applications, the optimal power of these chargers is less than 30 kW. The existing market of these chargers is negligible, with only 6,000 chargers installed globally. However, Power Technology Research views this technology as an emerging trend over the next decade as the energy demand from electric vehicles grows to overburden the grid.

There are four types of key players involved actively in the field of V2G, namely vehicle manufacturers, DSO/TSO, aggregators, and charger manufacturers. The table below shows the leading players active in V2G projects.

Hurdles in V2G Deployment

V2G deployment still faces many hurdles. For one, the high price of DC chargers as compared to AC chargers with the same power output requires a significantly heavy investment, targeting a niche market of those who can afford it. Secondly, the non-availability of EV models capable of bi-directional charging capabilities hinders progress in this domain. Another critical challenge arises with the battery life; the battery is the most expensive part of an EV, and it comes with limited charging cycles. It is understandable that EV drivers may be reluctant to waste their limited battery lifecycles if the compensation does not outweigh the loss from early retirement of the battery. Finally, there is a need for standardization and establishment of communication protocols between the various actors involved, delivering a reliable two-way flow of information that includes a transport layer which relies on a communication signal via vehicle telematics, to send charging instructions and a protocol that can help the device understand and execute instructions.

V2G projects are still in pilot phase, mostly ranging from a proof-of-concept trial to small-scale commercial trials, offering several key energy services. The chart below shows service offerings by different projects and the countries in which these are undertaken.

Outlook

The technology used in the charging infrastructure will keep evolving with charging solutions incorporating battery-based solutions, dynamic load management, demand response, vehicle-to-grid technology, and wireless charging which are already available and being tested in pilot phases for feasibility. The mainstream application of V2G is certainly possible, but the obstacles in its way of application need to be adequately addressed in order to speed up the process.

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Hassan Zaheer -Exec. Director Client Relations & Advisory

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