October 6, 2023

Leveraging Bidirectional Charging To Maximize Fleet Electrification

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8 Min. Read

This article was originally published November 18, 2021 and was updated October 6, 2023

Fleet electrification yields significant benefits for forward-looking companies ready to invest in electric vehicles (EVs), from cost savings to supporting environmental goals.

However, building a modern fleet doesn’t stop there. The next step is to turn EVs into a source of value by developing a charging infrastructure that leverages bidirectional charging to further fuel company revenues and provide energy resilience when EVs are not in use.

While only a few EV models currently offer this feature, vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology could soon become a staple and will significantly transform energy infrastructure.

In this article, we’ll discuss bidirectional charging and how this innovative technology can help you get more out of your fleet electrification efforts.

What Is Bidirectional Charging?

A majority of EVs offer unidirectional charging only, with energy either from the grid or a stored battery, sending power to charge the EV through the electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE). With this model, energy flows to the EV, and the vehicle’s internal battery stores the electricity for future use.

Vehicle-to-Grid or bidirectional technology allows energy to flow from the EV to the grid. The energy infrastructure can then redistribute the power as needed.

Bidirectional charging turns EVs into a mobile storage solution that makes energy available on demand. With the average EV battery storing enough power to meet the needs of a household for a few days, this technology could revolutionize the energy infrastructure.

As EV adoption continues to grow and more manufacturers offer models that support V2G, this technology will help address challenges tied to the aging energy infrastructure:

  • The U.S. power grid is mainly decentralized, with power production facilities servicing large areas and relying on distribution networks that incur energy losses, especially on hot days.
  • Electricity demand increases sharply during the summer months. Utility companies must increase production to match higher use rates during the afternoon and evening hours.

Turning an EV park into a source of on-demand energy would reduce the reliance on ineffective distribution lines and supplement utility providers’ production capabilities.

Businesses ready to invest in EV adoption and build a charging infrastructure that supports V2G can expect several benefits:

  • Many utility providers are adopting time-of-use (TOU) pricing models to account for fluctuations in demand. Combining V2G with an intelligent charging management solution allows businesses to avoid paying high TOU rates by charging EVs when the rate is low and discharging when the rate goes up.
  • Utilities also calculate demand charges based on usage spikes during specific intervals. Switching to V2G as a power source effectively reduces spikes and keeps demand charges low.
  • Some utilities offer programs that make energy credits available to users who can discharge energy to the grid. Joining one of these programs can offset the rising cost of electricity, especially if you also join a demand response program.
  • Bidirectional charging increases resilience with a battery energy storage system (BESS) solution that you already have available through your electric fleet. During a rolling blackout, your fleet becomes a mobile source of power you can use to continue operations.

Charging as an Asset

Fleet managers can create value and build a modern business model with EV adoption, but implementing a reliable charging infrastructure is just as important.

For businesses with long-term electrification strategies, incorporating bidirectional charging into this project will result in a future-proof infrastructure designed to add value and bring savings to your company for years to come.

Bidirectional Charging At-Home

Home charging accounts for a majority of EV charging. It’s the most convenient and accessible solution for EV owners because the safest and most efficient way to charge an EV battery, Level 2 charging, requires four to ten hours to get a full charge making it a great overnight option.

As a fleet manager, building a charging network by installing individual charging stations in your drivers’ homes has several benefits:

  • An at-home charging network can extend your fleet’s range and service area, depending on where drivers live.
  • Starting the day with a full battery means drivers save time and energy by leaving for their route directly instead of going to a central facility first.

Incorporating bidirectional charging into this model allows your drivers to distribute energy throughout the community. It directly involves them in your ESG mission and can make their jobs feel more meaningful.

If you adopt this compensation model, V2G can also become a perk for employees ready to actively manage EV charging to make the most out of their charging allowance.

V2G Charging and Your Central Facility

For some fleets, using at-home charging as the primary component of your charging infrastructure isn’t a realistic model, prompting the creation of a central charging hub. Turning your main facility into a charging hub has a few advantages:

  • It gives you more control over charging practices and costs.
  • It keeps all your EVs in one spot allowing you to regularly facilitate maintenance.
  • You can incorporate a solar array or another source of clean energy into this model.
  • You can build your energy storage into this model by investing in an additional BESS solution.

A BESS allows you to store energy locally and distribute it to your fleet as needed. You can use this approach to avoid drawing power from the grid when rates are high or your usage spikes due to increased demand or other conditions.

With bidirectional charging, your EV fleet becomes a power source for recharging your BESS. Using your fleet as a mobile storage solution also means you can charge a BESS located in another facility or keep your BESS complete during a power outage.

Plus, this model allows you to repurpose your old EV batteries. With age, EV batteries eventually lose range and can become unsuitable for powering your fleet. However, these old batteries have plenty of use and can become part of your BESS.

Partnerships With Local Utilities

More utilities are building distributed systems that emphasize storage at the local level to offset the costs and energy losses linked to relying on power lines.

The ultimate goal is to build virtual power plants (VPPs) that aggregate multiple power production and energy storage assets. The VPP system would then redistribute power. The advantages of this model include building a greener infrastructure, keeping production costs down, and increasing power production capacity to meet growing needs without generating more harmful emissions.

You can partner with your utility provider to turn your fleet into a source of power you will discharge into a local BESS to provide the community with affordable energy while reducing the strain on the grid.

A partnership with your utility provider can help establish your business as a sustainability leader and set a precedent for more enterprises investing in electrification. Plus, it’s a great storytelling opportunity for your marketing team to emphasize your connection to the community and your sustainability practices.

Building a Smart Charging Infrastructure

Planning for the development of the technology component of your charging infrastructure will help you leverage bidirectional charging to create value.

Choosing the Right EVs

With more than 40 EV models currently available on the U.S. market, more options exist than ever for building an electric fleet.

However, not all models support bidirectional charging. With the average EV lifespan exceeding ten years, developing a precise electrification strategy and formulating an acquisition plan for purchasing EVs is crucial.

If you cannot find EV models that support V2G, plan for future purchases in the coming years so you can gradually introduce this technology to your fleet.

You should also look into acquiring EVs that support integration with tech solutions to facilitate monitoring and reporting.

Charging Equipment

Not all charging equipment supports V2G. If you’re building a charging network, investing in equipment that promotes bidirectional charging is a strategic move that will facilitate adoption as soon as you begin incorporating vehicles compatible with V2G into your fleet.

Charging Management

Thanks to cloud-based software, modern charging management solutions allow you to monitor EV battery levels, charging status, and more.

This approach gives you visibility over your fleet in real time. You can also extract valuable insights to spot charging patterns, track costs, and identify opportunities for using V2G more effectively.

You can also use analytics to develop a fluctuation V2G schedule based on current usage for your fleet. Predictive analytics can be a helpful tool for assessing future costs and potential energy credits you’ll earn through V2G.

Automation Features

As bidirectional charging becomes more common, the next generation of intelligent fleet management tools will incorporate automated features that help you get the most out of V2G.

An automated system could switch to discharging EV batteries according to a specific schedule. You could also build an intelligent energy management system that includes your BESS and automatically discharges your EV batteries when the BESS energy level reaches a predetermined threshold.

Building Tomorrow’s Charging Infrastructure Today

A successful electrification project requires careful planning and strategic partnerships. Leveraging the expertise of existing electrification leaders puts you in a unique position to use the latest tech and build a future-proof charging model.

Qmerit is the leading EV charging station and electrification solutions provider in North America, with over 269,000 EV charging station installations performed by the Qmerit network. We specialize in installation and integration solutions for fleet electrification, including at-home and commercial charging station installations for your drivers and will work with you to create a custom solution that meets your fleet needs.

If you are ready to take the next step and start designing a future-proof charging infrastructure that incorporates bidirectional charging, contact Qmerit today!

Author: Ken Sapp

Ken Sapp

Senior Vice President, Business Development and eMobility