Momentum is slowly building behind vehicle-to-grid (V2G) electric charging, as manufacturers, power companies and fleets look to capitalise on the opportunities presented by vehicle batteries as power storage solutions.

V2G chargers enable a two-way flow of electricity between vehicle and grid. This gives fleet owners a profit potential – buying electricity at cheap rates, storing it in vehicle batteries, and then selling it back to the grid at peak rates.

The technology also helps to support renewable energy by storing wind and solar power, which will help to smooth out fluctuations in supply.

Nissan ‘power station’

At the end of last year, Nissan became the first manufacturer to receive regulatory approval in Germany for one of its vehicles (pictured above) to be used as a reserve for the German electricity grid. The initiative prequalified the Nissan Leaf as a ‘large power station’ under the German Transmission System Operators’ (TSO) guidelines. The project also involves The Mobility House, which is already working with Honda on V2G technology.

Thomas Raffeiner, chief executive officer of The Mobility House, said: “We see electric vehicles as batteries on wheels whose storage capacities will help us offset the fluctuating availability of renewable energy. Electric vehicles will provide stability to the power grid and thereby make a valuable contribution to the energy transition towards renewables.”

V2G a commercial prospect

The world’s first fully commercial V2G hub is operational in Denmark, run by Nuvve .

“Awareness for V2G technology and the impact it can have for businesses, the electricity grid, and the environment is gaining momentum,” said Gregory Poilasne, chief executive officer, Nuvve.

1,500-vehicle V2G fleet trial 

In the UK, Nuvve has partnered with EDF Energy in a major pilot project to install up to 1,500 V2G chargers at the sites of EDF’s business customers. According to EDF, the chargers will give the national grid access to 15 megawatts of energy storage in vehicle batteries.

Beatrice Bigois, managing director of customers at EDF Energy, said: “We are investing in smart technologies that will help our business customers electrify their fleets in a cost effective way and support the UK’s ambition for clean growth.”

In Oxford, V2Go, a project led by EDF Energy R&D UK, is looking to recruit up to 300 electric fleet vehicles to take part in a real world V2G demonstrator project from 2020-21. Each participant must have a depot where V2G chargers can be installed for up to 10 electric vehicles.

V2G charger prices falling

At today’s prices V2G chargers still look expensive to fleet operators, but their costs are falling and the choice of chargers is rising, said Dr Marco Landi, innovation lead at Innovate UK, a government-funded agency. Speaking exclusively to Fleet Europe, he said the number of different V2G chargers is approaching 10, creating competition which is bringing down prices; these have fallen from £10,000 (€11,000) per charger to about £4,000 (€4,400) in the last few years.

“By 2030 it will cost about £1,000 (€1,100) for a domestic bi-directional charger,” said Landi. “And you will be able to save about £300 (€330) per year, so you will recover your costs within three to four years. That compares to about 10 years to recover the costs of installing solar panels.”

Landi added that with both smart charging and V2G charging, drivers need to change their behaviour to plug in their vehicles as soon as they are parked by a charger, rather than wait until their vehicles’ batteries definitely need to recharge.

“This technology is potentially huge for van fleets. If you are a commercial entity you have even more options to make money from energy services,” he said.

This includes businesses avoiding a ‘triad charge’, the levy they are forced to pay during the highest peaks of demand on the electricity network over the winter months, by using the electricity stored in their vehicle batteries to power their own businesses.

Early adopter fleets will, however, have to select the right vehicles to start V2G charging. At the moment the technology only works with CHAdeMOquick charging system, used by the Nissan Leaf, eNV200,Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Kia Soul EVand Tesla. The rival CCS charging system has said that V2G is on its roadmap by 2025.

Electrification is one of the main topics at the 2019 Fleet Europe Summit (6-7 November, Estoril, Portugal). Get your tickets now and learn how you can optimise your fleet and adopt electric vehicles.