With demand for electric vehicles (EVs) increasing at a significant pace, the potential of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology – using vehicle batteries to provide balancing and flexibility services – has never been more pertinent than it is today. However, there are still a number of questions around the technology and its future.
Northern Powergrid, the electricity network operator for the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire, is working with a range of industry leading partners across multiple V2G projects. It bought together four of these experts to debate the challenges, benefits and ultimate potential of V2G:
- Patrick Erwin, policy and markets director, Northern Powergrid
- Ian Cameron, head of innovation, UK Power Networks
- Francisco Carranza, director of energy services, Nissan Europe
- Marc Trahand, executive vice-president, Nuvve Corporation
Can EVs guarantee decarbonisation if the vehicles are not powered by renewables?
PE: “EVs are not generation, so they cannot guarantee decarbonisation. However, they will often be powered by cleaner energy sources than diesel or petrol cars and so can help reduce carbon emissions and cut air pollution in our cities. In addition, we will learn how drivers engage with EVs and EV charging infrastructure, through studies and real-world implementations, over time and will be more able to ensure they are powered by clean, renewable sources.”
MT: “It is nearly never the case that EVs slow the process of decarbonisation. Every electrical grid in Europe has strong 2020 CO2 targets and in some cases, these have already been achieved. An EV in western Europe will usually be running on cleaner energy than an internal combustion engine car, that’s number one. Furthermore, V2G technology will further help decarbonisation by replacing polluting power plants that back up the electrical grid.”
IC: “Yes absolutely, the electrification of transport in itself is necessary to enable decarbonisation. The fuel burned in our vehicles is actually a larger contributor to emissions than the energy we use through electricity today.”
MT: “Agreed. The transition to EVs is reducing CO2 emissions and air pollution, which is literally saving lives and diminishing medical costs.”
What is the total storage potential available from V2G?
MT: “There are already many GWh of batteries on wheels available – over 20GWh in the USA alone – and this is predicted to increase very fast.”
IC: “And anything up to 10 million or more EVs are forecast to be on UK roads by 2030. Based on this, we estimate there will be 290,000 or more V2G-capable EVs with the potential to offer significant flexibility services by 2030.”
MT: “And it therefore doesn’t make sense to keep building expensive standalone battery farms when you have all this capacity on wheels that just needs to be plugged into bidirectional chargers.”
PE: “I think there is still a place for utility-scale storage. What we need is a varied mix of clean energy sources – at national level, decentralised and domestic – alongside a host of storage options to ensure the system is agile and flexible enough to meet the varied demands of all across society, while ensuring decarbonisation. There is no doubt that V2G offers significant potential as part of this mix, and a huge opportunity for consumers and the energy system to benefit from new flexibility.”
What is the impact of V2G on battery degradation?
MT: “With lithium-ion batteries, if energy management is done well, degradation will be very limited. Also, as new battery chemistries come to market, we’ll see them becoming even more robust and providing more capacity to users.”
IC: “Actually, there’s been work conducted that suggests V2G and intelligent control of battery charging can actually increase the life of batteries.”
FC: “I agree that there’s no impact on the battery degradation. This can also be guaranteed through customers’ EV warranties if using a Nissan approved V2G scheme.”
How much system flexibility could be available from V2G, and in what instances will it be useful?
IC: “Firstly, I think it’s important to point out that flexibility from V2G can create value across a broad spectrum of uses, relevant across various charging archetypes, including long stay and short stay durations.”
PE: “It could be particularly useful with helping to support vulnerable customers during a power cut. It has the potential to provide a significant amount of capacity that some say could ultimately be the UK’s largest aggregated energy source. So this could help customers get back on supply faster after a power cut or even stop the lights going out in the first place.”
MT: “Completely agree. V2G provides a great deal of flexibility. It also has the potential to provide many different flexibility services to the grid, from frequency regulation and peak shaving, to smart charging and behind the meter services.”
IC: “Recent work from Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge energy policy research group found that the flexible smart power system recommended by the National Infrastructure Commission could deliver network investment savings of up to £8.1 billion a year by 2030. Further to this, we and our project partners in the Innovate UK competition are refining forecasts for potential system flexibility from V2G.”
What revenues are likely to be available for drivers from V2G?
FC: “I think it’s important to recognise that revenues will depend on market conditions.”
MT: “Yes, it’s hard to speculate on exact revenues as they will vary per market and per customer, depending on their configuration, local energy market, laws as well as the taxes and tariffs applied.”
IC: “Absolutely agree – we can’t predict the impact of an increasing number of EV drivers. However, as EVs become mainstream, there’s an increasing possibility of V2G becoming more scalable and available to drivers, which can only benefit customers.”
FC: “Yes, and so EV drivers should be provided with revenues representative of the cost of the electricity consumed by charging and driving their EVs.”
MT: “Picking up on Ian’s point, while the energy markets are dynamic and you can see wide price variations, the strength of V2G is in providing a breadth of services that bring value to the customer and ultimately diminish the total cost of EV ownership.”
FC: “Agreed. And, as the market matures, we absolutely expect new service offerings and revenue streams to come online, supporting things like primary reserve, local needs for households, grid constraints, distributed energy resources and more.”
V2G relies on consumer engagement, which is often missing in the energy sector. How will V2G capture people’s attention enough to change their behaviour?
IC: “Ultimately, people are most likely to act when they know it’s in their interest. Clear incentives – most likely but not necessarily cash – and proactive communication from all parties involved will help drive customer involvement.”
PE: “Yes and it is important that this is effectively communicated with and targeted towards supporting the most vulnerable customers on our network to ensure that they can also benefit from the incentives and flexibility.”
MT: “Yes, I think Ian’s point about incentives not necessarily being cash is important. For example, a user could benefit from reduced cost of energy to drive or a reduced charger installation price for example. Lots of different pricing schemes are possible.”
FC: “They could also be provided with revenues equivalent to the electricity consumed by charging and driving their EVs, effectively meaning they drive for free.”
What issues – including regulation and technological – will V2G need to overcome to succeed?
MT: “The regulatory issues are very different per country. It is today the largest hurdle for progression of V2G installations at multiples levels: interconnections to DSO, market access, TSO qualifications, as well as government taxes and tariffs applied to the consumer’s bills that don’t currently favour prosumers.”
IC: “And these regulatory issues could limit V2G and restrict how EVs are able to participate in flexibility markets. If the government could really get behind the rapid development of new licenses, the market could grow much quicker.”
PE: “In the UK, the government has committed £30 million to make the UK a world leader in low-carbon vehicles - this is a huge step. The sale of new internal combustion engine cars will also be banned from 2040. More can always be done though, and the pace of change needs to be rapid to achieve our decarbonisation goals.”
MT: “And from a technological stand point, aggregating EV batteries to form a virtual power plant is very complex but now achievable and proven; at Nuvve we are managing terabytes of data on a daily basis and meeting electrical grid requirements for our services.”