Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Automakers and utility companies are collaborating to develop bi-directional battery capability in electric vehicles, which enables EVs to receive and return power to the grid.
The big picture: Many AVs will likely be electric, and if they can operate as off-grid batteries, they could let owners make better use of the energy they buy from utilities and even be used as backup energy sources in blackouts.
Where it stands:
- In a recent demonstration, Nissan used batteries in its Leaf EV to power its U.S. headquarters in Tennessee. Nissan previously experimented with bidirectional charging capability in Germany, finding that it could bring in $1530 per year for vehicle owners.
- Emotorwerks, owned by Italian utility Enel, has partnered with U.K. charging company EO to pilot V2G services to consumers.
- The U.S. Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar is piloting autonomous vans with V2G capability, to test V2G as a possible backup power source for the Air Station.
- Mitsubishi has tested a V2G pilot in Amsterdam and is building V2G infrastructure in Japan in partnership with Hitachi and Japanese energy company TEPCO. Its tests are focused on creating earning opportunities for EV drivers.
Yes, but: Research has shown that bi-directional batteries will see high wear and tear if they are constantly charging and sharing electricity. JB Straubel, the CTO of Tesla, has criticized the technology for this "degradation cost." Meanwhile, the current price of standard EV batteries keeps the vehicles outside an affordable range for most consumers.
What to watch: If a business model develops around bi-directional charging, the cost of battery wear and tear could be factored into companies' bottom lines. But if consumers are expected to bear the expense, they may need to be incentivized to participate in V2G systems through tax credits or lower utility rates, in addition to earning back money when their vehicles give power to the grid.
Sudha Jamthe is CEO of IoTDisruptions and teaches AV Business at Stanford Continuing Studies.