Published on July 27th, 2020 |
by Tina Casey
July 27th, 2020 by Tina Casey
You could practically hear the high-fiving from Audi fans all over the world earlier this month when news leaked out that the company’s e-tron SUV was the global leader among electric SUVs, thanks mainly to sales in Europe, which are a bit higher than the NIO ES6’s sales in China. Well, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Audi and the Hager Group really rocked the world of the motoring public last Friday, when the two companies announced the development of a plug-in + household vehicle-to-grid EV charging system. Ummm … whut?
Audi Hearts Electric Vehicle-to-Grid Charging
For those of you new to the topic, vehicle-to-grid technology (aka bidirectional charging) refers to the fact that the electric vehicle of today is really just one massive, rolling mobile energy storage unit. So, imagine the possibilities if you need electricity in case of a blackout. Just plug in your EV and buh-bye, diesel or gas emergency generators.
With V2G charging, whole neighborhoods of electric vehicle owners could also participate in coordinated “virtual power plant” actions that help stabilize the local grid to avoid blackouts or brownouts. Energy planners anticipate that this kind of energy storage aggregation will play a significant role in the smart grid of the future, as more small-scale wind and solar enter the grid.
Depending on their daily schedule, electric vehicle owners could also use their EV battery to avoid high electricity rates during peak use hours. That also puts electric vehicle owners with rooftop solar panels in the catbird seat, especially if they already have a stationary energy storage unit in the house. With bidirectional charging, an EV battery would be icing on the rooftop of a solar-plus-storage cake.
Here, let’s have Martin Dehm, technical project manager for bidirectional charging at Audi, explain:
“Electric mobility is bringing the automotive industry and the energy sector closer together. The battery of an Audi e-tron could supply a single-family home with energy for around one week independently,” Dehm said. “Looking ahead, we want to make this potential accessible and make the electric car part of the energy transition as an energy storage device on four wheels.”
If you add hands-free wireless EV charging to the mix, it’s difficult to see how Audi’s own gasmobiles could compete with its EV lineup, let alone any gasmobile at all.
Electric Vehicle-To-Grid Charging: How Does It Work?
Audi is determined to come up with a fully automatic, plug-and-play V2G system that any householder can use.
That means a lot of heavy lifting for Audi. Bidirectional charging sounds simple enough, but the devil is in the engineering details, especially when combined with solar panels.
“What sounds simple in theory requires a high level of technical intelligence and coordinated interaction between different technical components in terms of infrastructure and in the vehicle in practice,” Audi explained in a press release last Friday.
So far, Audi has tested the bidirectional charging system on an e-tron with “near-series” EV charging technology, in partnership with the Hager Group.
The research team hooked the car up with a DC wall box with a charging capacity of up to 12 kilowatts. Already working the stationary energy storage angle, they also included solar panels and an additional storage unit with a 9 kilowatt-hour capacity in the test.
If you’re wondering where the inverter comes in, it doesn’t. The grid-supplied DC voltage in the trial run did all the work.
A Head Start For Household Bidirectional EV Charging
The chips seem to be falling into place, though Audi has yet to announce a production date for an e-tron model or two (or three) with bidirectional EV charging. However, the company does plan on rolling out approximately twenty 100% electric vehicles by 2025, so chances are good for V2G by then.
In addition, the Audi-Hager mashup is not starting from scratch. Research on V2G EV charging has been underway for at least the past 10 years, and judging from the latest market report, the commercial dam is about to burst wide open.
Audi can also most likely count on support from the EU, where energy planners have been eyeballing V2G as a pathway for integrating more renewable energy into the grid.
Fleet owners are getting into the act, too. One notable company to watch is UPS, which is developing a V2G system that also includes drive-over wireless EV charging.
The Microgrid Angle on EV Charging
Speaking of fleet owners, the real powerhouse player in this could be the US Department of Defense. The US Air Force and several other branches of the armed services have been tinkering around with V2G systems, and back in 2012, DoD collaborated in the launch of a multi-agency, cyber-secure, renewable energy, and EV bidirectional charging microgrid research project called SPIDERS, for Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security.
The aim was to improve resiliency and replace emergency diesel generators at military bases while developing stronger defenses against potential cyber attacks. In addition, the SPIDERS concept can play out in remote applications, deploying wind and solar energy scavenged on site.
SPIDERS was a success story out of the box. It was able to deploy 90% renewable energy under its first formal test, back in 2013.
The third phase of the initial $30 million research project concluded in 215 with a microgrid at Camp Smith in Hawaii, which enabled the base to operate fully during a grid power outage “with cyber-attack defense baked into the design.”
Another early adopter to watch is California. Last year the fall the California Energy Commission pumped another $94 million into its clean transportation investment fund. More than $60 million of the total is earmarked for electric vehicle charging and EV charging infrastructure, reportedly including vehicle-to-grid technology.
That would seem to be the case, based on a 2018 Energy Commission report on the using mobile energy storage devices to support the grid.
The report outlined how the California grid could manage the increased load that will attend the mainstreaming of electric vehicles, without necessarily having to match that load by building new power plants or importing more electricity.
The winning ticket was a combination of smart EV charging technology and V2G systems, potentially with significant cost advantages for fleet owners.
“By smart-control of PEV charging and even before using a V2G and V2B system or storage, the site owner and fleet manager can avoid demand charges, take advantage of time-of-use pricing through peak reduction, and save money,” the report noted. “By adding V2G and V2B and storage to the electric vehicle support equipment, the owner or fleet manager can receive additional rewards annually from demand response incentive programs.”
When applied to a national scale, that’s no quite as easy as its sounds. Last month the Energy Department released a progress report on V2G integration that outlined the technology barriers yet to be surmounted, so stay tuned for more on that.
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Photo: “Audi is researching bidirectional charging technology, Image no.A203841. Copyright: Hager Group. Rights: Use for editorial purposes free of charge.”