The VW Group wants to become the first major car-maker to start rolling out “vehicle-to-grid” (V2G) technology in all its electric cars to sell services back to the electricity grid and help stabilise fluctuating energy supply from renewables.
Nissan and Mitsubishi introduced vehicle-to-X (V2X) technology, also known as bidirectional charging, as early as 2013 and the new Nissan Leaf is undergoing trials in Australia, in particular a 51-vehicle program in the ACT. The recently unveiled Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 will both offer “vehicle-to-load” (V2L) which allows owners to charge devices from their vehicles and has the potential to transform a myriad of activities from camping to providing trade services.
But perhaps the most transformative potential of bidirectional charging technology in electric vehicles is the ability to provide grid services, and to help stabilise renewable energy sources and store energy that would otherwise be lost.
Volkswagen now also wants to get in on the action, according to a report from German news agency Handelsblatt published on Monday (Europe time) by transforming its electric cars into mobile energy storage units.
As Handelsblatt notes, Germany “spills” as much as 6,500 gigawatt-hours a year, or one per cent of Germany’s annual consumption – that is mostly generated on windy days by its turbines in the North and Baltic Seas, due to insufficient storage capacity.
VW calculates that if there were 2.7 million battery-electric cars with bidirectional, or V2G, capabilities they could absorb this energy, and discharge it to the grid when the supply is low. In this way, electric cars can help network operators to better manage fluctuations in the supply of green electricity.
“The test vehicles are running, we are in the final stages of preparation,” VW development board member Thomas Ulbrich was quoted as saying in an interview with Handelsblatt.
According to the report, VW intends that V2G will be included from 2022 on every electric car built on its second-generation MEB (“modular electrification kit”) platform, will means not only VW electric cars but also sister brands Audi, Skoda and Seat-Cupra (no mention of Porsche however).
Volkswagen has already started deliveries of its ID.4 and ID.3 on its first-generation MEB platform, but these do not yet have bidirectional charging capability.
Production of these first-generation vehicles will stop in December, and the bidirectional electric cars will go on sale after the turn of the year, with 300,000 units expected to be manufactured at the VW plant in Zwickau alone in 2022.
They will then, with permission from owners in return for an “expense allowance”, become part of a “distributed grid” that would also become an additional revenue source for Volkswagen.
“This creates a situation from which everyone involved would benefit,” Ulbrich was quoted as saying.
Carmakers that dive into the business of smoothing the grid would benefit more than financially, also. By saving unused renewable energy for future use to feed into the power grid, the vehicle industry would also acquire knowledge of how much storage capacity would actually be available at certain times.
For the Volkswagen group, it will also set it apart from Tesla, which is more focused on having its cars on the road in service as autonomous taxis.
Ulbrich told Handelsblatt that it will take several years to build a virtual energy storage system from electric cars. Although Volkswagen has stated it wants to have 10 million new-generation EVs on the road by 2030, consulting firm Deloitte has estimated 6.35 million is more realistic.
There are also regulatory uncertainties, such as how to price electricity stored in this way but at some point, regulators will have to work with carmakers building this new energy storage system, and it would appear that Volkswagen wants to lead the charge.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.