The potential benefits of electric vehicles (EVs) extend beyond making combustion engines obsolete. The battery technology that powers EVs can also be deployed as a storage asset, delivering power back to the grid and electrifying homes.
Two companies are testing the concept. The utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and automobile manufacturer General Motors have announced their collaboration on a pilot project that will test the effectiveness of EVs as an on-demand power source for homes in the area serviced by PG&E.
The pilot project will involve testing vehicles with what the two companies are describing as “cutting-edge bidirectional charging technology.” In other words, the cars will be designed to discharge electricity for consumption when the batteries have been charged and the cars are idle. This feature will provide the electricity needs of the car owners’ homes.
The pilot is expected to launch this summer. It will include the use of the bidirectional hardware coupled with software designed to enable power to flow from an EV’s charged battery back into the customer’s home. The software will automatically coordinate between the EV, home and utility, enabling the utility and the homeowner to utse the stored electricity for maximum efficiency in times of optimal use.
The potential use of EVs for electricity storage has been touted as a valuable resource for utilities and grid management. When parked at home and fully charged, EVs can act as a distributed energy resource, and with coordinated management, can help utilities increase supply, level off peak demand and improve the reliability and resiliency of the grid for distribution.
The potential for the pilot project is also optimal. PG&E notes that its service area in Northern and Central California is home to one in five EVs on the road in the United States. For its part, GM projects to have more than 1 million units of EV capacity in North America by the end of 2025.