Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) could well send shockwaves through a multitude of sectors across the UK, with development picking up pace and commercialisation on the horizon.
V2G technology works by both managing the time vehicles are charged to utilise periods of abundant, green electricity on the grid, and allowing the vehicles to discharge into the grid at times of constraints.
Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons for why the technology is so promising is its ability to reduce the cost of energy and provide a mobile flexibility service for customers. By allowing vehicles to extract energy at cheaper periods in the day, the vehicles can then provide energy to buildings and other applications. This could also reduce the strain on the grid.
In recent years, there have been numerous trials of V2G, leading experts to describe it as a “proven technology” at Solar Media’s EV World Congress in October, but one with plenty of work still left to do before it would scale.
Clearly V2G technologies have a future, but when could they be widely available in the UK? What security concerns are associated with it and how is the rollout to be enabled?
A case for V2G technology
“V2G technology gives drivers the option to sell surplus electricity from their EV battery back to the electricity grid, helping to supply energy at times of peak demand. This helps reduce demand for fossil fuels, and help the UK move closer to its net zero carbon goal,” Alex Thwaites, head of zero carbon living at OVO Energy told Current+.
OVO Energy is one of many companies that has been exploring the potential of V2G technology. As indicated by Thwaites, the possibilities for the technology could enhance consumer savings and help minimise the carbon footprint in households. The firm led the “world’s largest domestic V2G trial” in 2020 with several outstanding results displayed for the technology, it said.
“During the trial, some customers were earning up to £725 when they sold excess energy from the V2G back to the grid at peak times,” says Thwaites.
“Partners of the project, funded by BEIS and Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV), calculated that V2G technology could save customers £340 on average compared with £120 when using one-way EV smart charging. The trial alleviated the vast majority of participants’ concerns regarding V2G technology including battery degradation, reliability and costs; and participants reported that it was important to them that their next EV had V2G capability, demonstrating that customers are ready for a V2G proposition.”
Improving public perception and education around the technology could prove to be a critical aspect in securing V2G’s prominent role as a key technology for achieving net zero emissions. By providing V2G technology on a wider scale to the public, balancing and flexibility benefits could be coupled with cheaper energy bills for consumers – something that is fundamental amid the energy crisis.
“Balancing electricity supply and demand is becoming increasingly challenging as we ramp up generation from intermittent renewables and electrify transport,” said Conor Maher-McWilliams, head of flexibility at Kaluza, speaking in 2021 about the company’s trial run of the technology.
“V2G is a compelling example of how intelligent electric car charging can create significant financial rewards for customers, while enhancing the resilience of the grid as we transition to net zero. The OVO trial has provided some of the earliest insights into how the technology works in the real world and what is needed for it to be rolled out at scale. The V2G opportunity is a hugely exciting one which we are actively exploring here in the UK and internationally.”
Thalia Skoufa, transport practice manager at the Energy Systems Catapult, highlighted that pinpointing locations where fleet downtime will occur is predictable, such as airports, fleet bases, and this held good potential for V2G, but it was hard to assess exactly how this would be done until the market was more developed.
A first-of-its-kind trial with the NHS utilised V2G technology as a means to power a large electrical fleet. Results from the trial revealed that the Foundation Trust was able to reduce its peak hour use electricity costs by £90 a month, thanks to an average reduction of 6p/kWh, which is a saving of around £1,075 per annum, the company said.
Not only were the costs of the energy bills reduced, the Indra V2G bi-directional EV chargers assisted the national electricity network with load demand by scheduling the hospital vehicles to charge off peak.
The trial, developed in partnership with Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) and Hitachi ZeroCarbon, involved five Hitachi-funded V2G units at sites across Withington Community Hospital and Trafford General Hospital.
The challenges hindering the rollout of V2G technology
Despite the benefits of V2G technology, there are numerous difficulties and challenges to overcome before it can be used effectively across the UK. One of the biggest drawbacks currently is creating the initial market for EVs so that applying V2G on top of this would be similar to a domino effect.
“Currently, the UK is due to ban the production of petrol cars in 2030, which we think is an ambitious and necessary goal. Our trial demonstrated that V2G delivers immediate cost benefits to the driver, however consumer uptake of EVs must increase in order for V2G charging to have a real impact on the carbon output of the grid,” says Thwaites.
“In order to expand the V2G rollout suppliers must continue to use innovation and creativity to create more engaging propositions to help customers save money.”
Managing director at Eaton UK & Ireland, Siobhan Meilke, recently called for the UK government to reform the current grid codes that regulate the technical requirements to connect to the electricity grid so as to quicken the integration of V2G charging into the electricity network.
“This would encourage electricity suppliers and the vehicle industry to develop and market the products householders and businesses need to access cost savings, and the grid would be able to handle larger volumes of renewables,” says Meilke.
Could existing EV charging infrastructure become outdated?
“EV infrastructure is expanding, for example with lamppost charging and more charge points available at service stations. However, our trial found that the V2G hardware and installation cost was a concern for drivers as they were higher than a smart chargepoint. With mass production this cost is expected to come down, but demand will have to go up first,” says Thwaites.
What sets V2G apart from other smart charging systems is bidirectional charging – their ability to both charge and discharge from the grid. In June 2022, new regulations came in mandating EV chargers to be smart enabled, however these do not mean that they have to be capable of bidirectional charging. As such, the need to retrofit to enable V2G charging could add a prohibitive cost.
Interlinked with this is the development and scale of the hardware manufacturers that offer V2G technologies. Kaluza stated in a whitepaper that: “Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) is still a nascent technology, with only a handful of hardware manufacturers offering chargers capable of bidirectional charging and even fewer auto OEMs making V2X-enabled EVs.”
Alongside this, the firm also stated that only a few vehicles, including the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi Outlander, are compatible with CHAdeMO, a fast-charging system for battery EVs, which allows for V2X charging without a risk to battery warranty.
This highlights the risks associated with the rollout of EV technologies that could fast become outdated given its incompatibility for V2G. This could both hold back the speed at which V2G becomes a boon for the system, and add cost.
When could V2G be widely viable?
With the clear potential V2G technologies offer society, the biggest question is when we could see this widely deployed around the country. Due to the complexity of the technology many have argued that we may not see the V2G available until the 2030s, however Valts Grintals, product marketing lead for Kaluza Flex, believes it could be much sooner.
“The UK has the potential to be a global leader in V2G thanks to a number of advanced programmes taking place. If the industry can continue to ramp up deployments and engage more automakers around V2G-compatible EVs and charging standards, then V2G will become more accessible and subsequently far cheaper for customers,” he says.
“On this basis, and with the right regulatory frameworks, we could see a significant uptick in adoption from 2025.”