Jan 13, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Electric cars could become charging stations too

Ford's F-150 Lightning pickup can top off the battery in a Mustang Mach-E.

Ford's F-150 Lightning pickup can top off the battery in a Mustang Mach-E. Photo: Ford

Electric vehicles will soon have "bidirectional" or two-way batteries that can turn cars into useful sources of power for your home, worksite or even another car.

Why it matters: One of the biggest obstacles to EV adoption is the lack of charging infrastructure.

  • But if you think of your car as a source of energy — not just a consumer of it — that whole calculus begins to change, says Reilly Brennan, a transportation investor at Trucks Venture Capital.

Driving the news: Ford Motor recently announced that the electric and hybrid versions of its popular F-150 pickup truck have an innovative feature that allows owners to "share" miles with other EVs by transferring power from one car's battery to another's.

  • An F-150 Lightning could add an average range of 20 miles per charging hour, for example, to a Mustang Mach-E SUV, or 13 miles of charge per hour to another F-150 Lightning.
  • Volkswagen's ID.4 electric crossover has bidirectional capability in Europe, but so far, not in the U.S.
  • The bidirectional feature could one day be common on all EVs.

Two-way batteries could address range anxiety and help people think differently about destination charging, Brennan writes in a new blog post.

  • "We'd move from planned, large gulps of 'fuel' to the freedom of ubiquitous power-sipping if we need it," he writes.
  • "Range anxiety for an individual car might persist, but the nearest charging station might be your neighbor's truck."

By the numbers: There are three times as many gas stations in the U.S. as there are charging stations.

  • But if every one of the estimated 1 million EVs on U.S. roads had a two-way battery, they would represent a charging network seven times larger than today's gas stations, says Brennan.
  • Ford plans to produce 150,000 F-150 Lightning trucks a year — those trucks alone would create more "distributed power stations" than all the gas stations in America, he says.

Yes, but: There's still some engineering work to redesign battery packs and software to make sure power can flow in both directions.

  • And researchers say two-way batteries wear down faster.

The bottom line: Electric vehicles don't only have to consume energy. They could also supply power to your home during an outage or help utilities manage electricity demand during peak usage.

  • Plus, your neighbor might be grateful to borrow a few extra miles.

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