V2X and the Great EV Battery Grid

Aaron Foyer
Nissan EVs in front of home
Courtesy of Nissan Global

In energy transition, there is no shortage of technologies with hype. The truth is many won’t pan out. But residential solar paired with an unexpected source of battery storage might end up being a generational Lennon-McCartney duo.

The unexpected battery? Your car.

Background: According to the International Energy Agency, solar PV is one of the only technologies that is on track for its Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario. While utility-scale solar continues to grow, the Paris-based organization estimates 257 gigawatts of residential solar will be added this year with more homes install rooftop solar panels.

But critics of solar point to its intermittency and the fact that the energy storage required to be a complete energy system remains expensive.

  • A recent paper from Rice University explored levelized full system cost of energy (LFSCOE). The author found the additional storage required to bring solar PV from generating intermittent supply to being able to actually meet demand would drive the cost of solar up more than 1,000%.

But what if instead of setting up expensive standalone storage projects, there happened to be hundreds of large batteries connected to the grid in every community just sitting idly in garages?

Enter V2X

Short for ‘vehicle-to-everything’, V2X is a broad technology concept where electric vehicles do more than just remove barriers between us and a 10-piece McNugget meal. Instead, EVs and their batteries could play a big role in managing the grid and providing other key services while charging.

V2X diagram
Diagram of a vehicle in a V2X program, courtesy of Shell Recharge Solutions

To better understand the opportunity, it’s first important to appreciate how large the batteries inside modern EVs truly are.

Battery scale: The lithium-ion battery of a Ford F150 Lightning is ten times larger than a Tesla Powerwall and can easily power an average family home for days, according to BNN Bloomberg. Even the Mitsubishi Outlander’s plug-in hybrid has a battery that stores enough for a single family’s daily electricity use.

With increased concerns over grid reliability and considering most vehicles spend 95 percent of their operating life parked, there is an opportunity to have one help the other. A classic ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’.

The tech: Bi-directional chargers are now being incorporated into EVs that would allow their batteries to both soak up excess renewable electricity when supply is high and be able to discharge power back to the grid when the demand is there.

EVs working with the grid diagram
How fleets of EVs could service the grid, courtesy of Shell Recharge Solutions

Surprisingly, it’s doesn’t take many EVs participating to do the job. According to a study recently published earlier this year in Nature, participation rates as low as 10 percent of the total EV fleet could meet all short-term storage demands by 2050.

“OK, but I still need to drive my car in the morning”

Luckily, it’s expected that participating in V2G (vehicle-to-grid) programs would mostly just sip on the battery’s power, rather than fully draining it. Vehicle owners will be incentivized to participate by being paid, often just for delaying charging to a less demanding time for the grid.

  • It’s been suggested using V2X technology, EV owners could decrease charging cost by 12 percent.

The biggest hurdle: Consumers. While utilities, grid operators, and automakers can all work to install the technology, the biggest question is whether consumers will end up participating in the programs or not.

Zoom out: The only other technology that is rated as being on track for the IEA’s Net Zero by 2050 Scenario, other than solar PV, is the electric vehicle. Combining residential solar PV and electric vehicles with help from some V2X technologies might end up being an absolute banger of a tech duo. Sgt. Pepper’s 2.0.

+Bonus listening: Can the V2X dream become reality?