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Powering Smart Grid Resilience With Batteries on Wheels 

Graphic representation of wireless communication between vehicles and their environment using digital means of communication. February 19, 2020 (Illustration by Hans-J. Brehm) Creative Commons licence via Wikipedia

By Sunny Lewis for Maximpact

LONDON, UK, January 25, 2023 ( Sustainability News) – Trials started this week for Inflexion, a Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) bidirectional charging program built by a UK energy software company to secure a stronger, more resilient electricity grid. 

Inflexion’s V2X technology allows charged electric vehicles to send power to consumers’ homes or offices in off-peak hours, when costs and carbon levels are low and sell the clean energy back into the grid at times of peak use when costs and carbon emissions are greater. New software allows most EV brands to be used this way.

The consortium of stakeholders behind Inflexion is led by London-based energy software firm Kaluza, together with its parent company OVO Energy, the UK’s third-largest energy supplier, and the British EV charging company Indra, as well as Volkswagen Group UK. 

With its software Kaluza can connect and control millions of smart devices across people’s homes, such as electric vehicles, heaters and batteries. The platform uses machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to create a flexible energy system, 

The platform is built around a real-time data engine, allowing live information from industry, customers and their smart devices to automatically update. Customers gain insight into their energy usage data and carbon footprint in real-time, enabling them to reduce their energy use, bills and carbon footprint.

Kaluza CEO Scott Neuman commented, “V2X will have a transformative effect on decarbonizing our energy system but only if we make it accessible and affordable for all. Inflexion is an exciting step for the industry to engage and learn from real EV drivers and bring this game-changing technology closer to true, commercial scale.”

Alex Thwaites, who heads the Zero Carbon Living program at OVO Energy said, “This is not just about driving renewable energy solutions forward, it’s about demonstrating how customers can actually reduce their energy bills by making the switch to an EV.” 

“With OVO’s V2G (Vehicle-to-Grid) tariff trial we saw some EV drivers save up to £800 (US$990) a year on their bills,” Thwaites said.

These new technologies are a necessity, rather than a luxury. Market conditions for energy retailers have become increasingly difficult as both supply and demand become more volatile and renewables enter the power stream to curb climate change. With rising energy prices squeezing businesses and families, energy suppliers use Kaluza tools to operate cost-efficiently and reliably while moving to net-zero.

UK Energy and Climate Minister Graham Stuart said, “We want to make smart charging an easier choice for drivers of electric vehicles, whether that is charging on the driveway, at the workplace, or parked on the street. To do that we need to build new network infrastructure at pace, using the latest available technologies.”

Indra, based in Malvern, developed the first bi-directional V2G (Vehicle-to-Grid) charger, and now is creating a sustainable energy ecosystem that integrates the car, the home and the grid. 

AS for Volkswagen Group UK, Alistair Shields, group commercial services director, said, “In line with our target of a 40 percent reduction in CO2 [carbondioxide] emissions per vehicle in Europe by 2030 and our goal to be a net carbon neutral organisation by 2050, we are committed to reducing the barriers to EV adoption among consumers, and developing commercially viable, decarbonisation-focused solutions that accelerate progress towards net zero.” 

The British Government is taking an active role in funding this effort. The V2X Flex project, part of the V2X Innovation Programme, is funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and delivered by Innovate-UK. 

V2G in the USA

In New York City, NineDot Energy is collaborating with the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) on V2G technology.

“We’re trying to pinpoint where on the grid the power is needed most,” NineDot Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer Adam Cohen said. “Where on the grid can you interconnect at lower costs without having impacts on the system, and which location will provide the most help when the grid needs support?”

The New York City Fire Department has strict codes that make installing large lithium-ion batteries indoors difficult because they can catch fire. But the fire department does allow batteries inside electric vehicles in the many parking garages across the city.

NineDot charges the EVs overnight, during hours when there is lower demand on the electrical grid, and then sends the charged energy back to the grid during high-demand hours, such as in the afternoon and early evening. This works well in New York City, where many vehicles are left in garages for long periods.

“There’s lots of batteries on wheels in parking lots all across the densest part of New York,” Cohen said. “If they are parked in the right place at the right time, they can act as a storage battery, providing energy to the local grid when needed.”

The right place at the right time are key. “It’s all about managing demand versus supply,” said NREL senior researcher in power systems engineering Manish Mohanpurkar, the principal investigator for NineDot’s project. “You have to maintain a balance – consume when it’s abundant, discharge when it’s scarce.”

Last summer, NineDot Energy installed a demonstration of its V2G charging system in Brooklyn, New York, and there are plans to resume it this summer to test the New York City grid when it is under the greatest stress.

NineDot partnered with Revel, which has a fleet of all-EV rideshare vehicles in New York City, to provide the charging location and some of the cars. It also includes Cohen’s own Nissan Leaf with his personalized “V2G” license plate.

One challenge is that not every EV manufacturer allows V2G, even though the car is capable of it. Convincing EV companies to allow it is part of this process, especially since the focus of these manufacturers is on effective transportation.

“Vehicle-to-grid is an added benefit. It’s an additional perk that one can try and leverage,” Mohanpurkar said. “Now, several manufacturers already have plans to be able to provide the capability of doing V2G.”

Experiments with V2G Underway

Acciona Energía has set up Spain’s first V2G project in the Balearic Islands off Spain’s Mediterranian coast, creating the first bi-directional electric vehicle charging network to operate in the country. 

This system is powered with 100 percent renewable energy, and allows customers to use the electricity stored in the batteries of electric vehicles either for self-consumption or to return to the grid.

Eight Balearic companies will install 16 charging points, and Acciona Energía has provided eight electric cars with V2G technology that can be used as storage systems. A second phase, expanding the V2G network to the islands of Menorca and Ibiza, is in the works.

A Nissan Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) system in Australia, where it is called a Vehicle to Home (V2H) system (Image courtesy Nissan) Posted for media use

Other countries with V2G communication projects in the works or in the first year of operation include: Australia, Denmark, Japan, and Poland.

Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) is a different story. 

Adoption of short-range V2X capability continues to advance in China and South Korea, is expected to take off in Europe by 2027, and is closer to a green light in the United States, according to global technology intelligence firm ABI Research in a market data report last September, and other sources.

ABI forecasts that more than 10 million vehicles will be capable of short-range V2X communication by 2025. 

V2X vehicle communication has the potential to increase traffic safety, optimize traffic flow, and reduce emissions.

The crucial market driver for mass adoption will be whether the V2X wins inclusion in the Euro NCAP. This five-star rating system tests new cars and gives them a safety rating.

Chinese automakers now are launching vehicles with built-in V2X capability, which will help them excel in future EuroNCAP tests.

Lagging, the United States now has a solid regulatory framework for C-V2X, paving the way for deployments,” explains Smart Mobility and Automotive Industry Analyst Maite Bezerra at ABI Research.

When it comes to V2X communication, there are currently two competing technologies – Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) and cellular-V2X (C-V2X). 

Developed to enable collision prevention, the DSRC technology is reliable, adequate, and immediately available. It is almost patent-free, easy to implement, and financially rather cheap, explains Bezerra. 

But the C-V2X has wider applications in entertainment, traffic data, navigation, and autonomous driving. Bezerra believes that direct communication via the cellular network still constitutes the greatest V2X opportunity yet untapped. 

The numbers of vehicles equipped with V2X capability is growing quickly. The ABI market report projects that, “cellular connectivity will be available in 346 million vehicles by 2025, and smart city cellular connections will exceed 165 million.”