December 28, 2023

The Smart Grid Connection: How Energy Storage in EVs Contributes to Grid Stability and Flexibility

5 Min. Read

In the evolving landscape of energy innovation, opportunity creates solutions, and rapid innovation driven by ingenuity led to a breakthrough: bidirectional energy flow from electric vehicles (EVs). By leveraging bidirectional technology, EVs are rapidly emerging as pivotal players in enhancing grid resilience.

In this article we explore how vehicles are not just modes of transportation; they are becoming integral forces shaping the adaptability and strength of our entire energy infrastructure. From powering homes to reimagining our entire energy ecosystem, smart grids and electric vehicles are transforming how we connect with the world and changing the game when it comes to renewable energy solutions.

EVs as Distributed Energy Resources

In traditional EV charging, the charging station draws power from the grid and charges the EV battery. With bidirectional charging, the EV has an internal inverter that takes DC power from battery storage and converts it to AC power. The EV then sends power back to the grid. This is referred to as vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology.

In exchange for power sent from the EV, the utility sends revenue or credits back to the user. Bidirectional charging also reduces power generation demand on the grid and strengthens grid resilience. Finally, along with cost savings for businesses and individuals, it provides a measure of independence from the grid.

Creating Virtual Power Plants

Businesses with a fleet of EVs can aggregate them to create virtual power plants (VPPs) and drive greater economic and grid resilience benefits. The amount of potential supply is substantial, as one EV producing around 50 MWh can power an average home for a day. Individual home EVs can also be aggregated into a network of V2G providers.

Energy storage in electric vehicles with bidirectional charging can also augment emergency backup generators. This is an example of the use of energy storage in electric vehicles to supply power to buildings or vehicle-to-building (V2B). The benefit is increased reliability and the elimination of carbon emissions from diesel fuel. An EV can power a small office, and multiple EVs can power larger businesses, depending on the load and duration needed.

The forces of supply and demand create an opportunity for EV owners to use arbitrage, the practice of buying a commodity at a certain price in one market and reselling it at a higher price in a different market. In this case, electric power arbitrage is achieved by EV owners and fleets buying power (charging) at typically lower, off-peak rates, then selling power back to the grid at a higher peak rate using bidirectional charging.

Utilities will often encourage this because off-peak power is cheaper to produce, and at the same time, V2G provides a generating supply for peak hours.

For example, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) recently launched a V2G pilot program to encourage V2G transmission (although they call it V2X or Vehicle to Everything). PG&E is offering up to $3,000 to individuals to enroll, plus performance incentives and up to $5,000 plus incentives for commercial users.

Also, Duke Energy Florida is testing three Ford F-150 Lightnings for V2G. This is a pilot program to test the viability of using Lightning’s bidirectional charging technology to draw and supply power back to the grid and, in a broader sense, to test the viability of V2G in general.

Grid Stability Reinforcement

There are stability issues in utility grid power production and transmission. Two key issues are frequency variations and supply and demand imbalances.

Frequency Regulation

Grids around the world produce power with alternating current (AC). The main reason is that it is more efficient to transmit over distance than direct current (DC). In production, some type of armature rotates between magnets to generate an electric current through coils of wire on the armature. Because the armature is rotating 360° around the magnets, there is a regular fluctuation of power between positive and negative. The number of times the current flow goes from positive to negative in one second is measured in hertz (Hz).

The standard frequency for AC power in the U.S. is 60 Hz. When the generator is overloaded by demand, frequency begins to fluctuate, stressing grid control mechanisms. Power sent from energy storage in electric vehicles can increase supply, slow the generators, and restore normal frequency.

Grid Balancing, EVs and Microgrids

EVs can play a major role by sending power to the grid and mitigating supply and demand imbalances.

Users can further leverage energy storage in electric vehicles by integrating them into microgrids and combining them with solar arrays. By using excess solar power produced to charge EV batteries and then sending power to the grid, fleet owners such as fleets can create a substantial renewable power supply for utilities.

Demand Response and Load Management

Peak shaving and load flexibility are key issues in the use of energy storage in electric vehicles.

Peak Shaving

Peak shaving reduces grid demand loads during grid peak hours. It occurs when utilities require users to reduce their consumption when peak demand occurs. It means users must take specific loads offline and requires planning.

Users can avoid peak shaving by using energy storage in electric vehicles to replace grid usage. The net result is cost savings for the user. A recent study by Siemens shows that the use of EVs to mitigate peak shaving will be crucial in the coming years.

Load Flexibility

Energy storage in electric vehicles can help mitigate peak shaving, but users must coordinate their energy supply to a grid with utilities. Typically, utility peak hours coincide with users’ consumption, so a fleet manager may need to reserve a certain number of vehicles for VPP usage and will need to plan with the utility for the times that VPP power is most needed.

Start Saving with Electrification Today

The use of energy storage in electric vehicles will create mobile power generation to strengthen and support power grids. EV owners will enjoy lower costs, and utilities will benefit from better power supplies.

If you are an individual EV owner or fleet owner, Qmerit can help you take advantage of your EV to save money on your electrical bill and increase your energy independence to protect yourself against grid failure resulting in power outages for your home. With over 269,000 EV chargers and 18,500 battery storage systems installed, 53,000 solar systems integrated, and 86,700 electric panels upgraded, no one is more experienced or qualified when it comes to helping you through the challenges of installing and using energy storage in electric vehicles.

Find out why Qmerit is the most trusted energy transition technology installer and service provider in North America and get started with your electrification project today!

Author: Greg Sowder Greg Sowder President, Qmerit Network