September 14, 2022
By Robbie Diamond, CEO of SAFE, and Ladeene Freimuth, president and founder of The Freimuth Group
The United States is at a timely and pivotal point in shaping our energy future. The electrification of the transportation sector will play an important role in this transformation, as a range of light-, medium-, and heavy-duty electric vehicles (EVs) become more widely available in the marketplace and adopted across the country. Still, threats to the electric system from natural- and human-caused disasters are not only continuing but are growing in frequency and intensity at the same time that our increasingly-digital society and electrified transportation sector require an electric system that is resilient, reliable, and secure. One of the most promising, cutting-edge ways to address this grid security challenge is by advancing the deployment of Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) technology.
With some modest technological adjustments that enable two-way, or bidirectional, charging, as opposed to the traditional one-way flow of electricity to the vehicle, EVs can essentially act as energy storage devices on wheels, or “mobile energy storage units” to power homes, buildings, and the grid itself. In these respects, V2G could be a game changer for helping to address grid resilience risks.
For instance, an electric school bus, with its large battery, could power a shelter or other critical facility during power outages from extreme weather events. According to a report by the Environment Texas Research and Policy Center, one electric school bus can store enough energy to “power the equivalent of five operating rooms for more than eight hours, and a single operating room for 43 hours1.
Electric utilities also could use V2G technology for backup generation, such as during public safety power (PSP) shut-off events in California. With these types of applications, V2G has the potential to improve the resilience of energy and other critical infrastructure and thereby strengthen our energy and national security.
Imagine, too, if your vehicle could power key devices, like cell phones, and appliances, and even your entire home for multiple days. Using EVs’ on-board storage capability also could save consumers and other stakeholders significant sums of money. For example, V2G-enabled EVs could eliminate the need to purchase diesel generators, the fuel to power them, or the need for other stationary energy storage units. While the potential opportunities to use V2G-enabled EVs for resilience purposes are huge — and growing — so are the other ways in which mobile energy storage units can reap benefits. EVs as mobile storage units can be used to help manage electric loads, reduce peak demand, and much more. In such use cases, V2G technology helps unlock additional value, or revenue, streams for EV owners and operators.
These images are no longer wishful thinking. The technology exists and is here today. As with most innovations, however, policy and other challenges hinder the more widespread and rapid adoption of V2G technology. For instance, there is insufficient awareness and coordination among key public and private sector stakeholders, and uniform technical standards are lacking. In addition, some stakeholders are concerned that charging and discharging EV batteries for grid services could degrade the batteries beyond levels typically associated with driving and could lead to warranty issues. Thus, policies are needed to unleash the potential of V2G fully, so EVs can be used to provide grid services, including as “mobile energy storage units.”
Fortunately, several federal policies that would facilitate and expedite the deployment of bidirectional charging were advanced in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, also referred to as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), including, for example, ensuring that incorporation of bidirectional charging is considered, where appropriate. Meanwhile, the Departments of Energy and Transportation were instructed to work together to facilitate the widespread deployment of EV charging infrastructure through grants, technical assistance, and more2. But, more remains to be done so that V2G is not an afterthought, as the United States electrifies its transportation system and the associated infrastructure. The following categories of recommendations would facilitate V2G deployment in the future.
- Incorporating V2G-enabled EVs into emergency planning and preparedness efforts to enhance critical infrastructure resilience, including prioritizing deploying bidirectional charging equipment to critical facilities
- Developing national technical standards to facilitate seamless communications between EVs and other equipment, which will enable V2G-capable EVs to provide grid services
- Regulatory treatment of, and compensation for, grid services that V2G-enabled EVs provide, using treatment of stationary energy storage as a model or precedent
- Strategies to improve coordination across the different levels of government, from federal to local, and with the private sector to facilitate V2G technology deployment, especially for resilience
- Developing and implementing federal, regional, and state technical and policy roadmaps to help guide the direction of advancing and expediting the widespread use of V2G technology
- Federal and state incentives, primarily tax credits, as well as grants and rebates
These and more specific policy recommendations are enumerated in a recent report issued by SAFE and the Electrification Coalition (EC) titled, Advancing Vehicle-to-Grid Technology Adoption: Policy Recommendations for Improved Energy Security and Resilience3. With appropriate policies in place to facilitate its deployment, V2G technology could play a vital role in enhancing the resilience, reliability, and security of the electric system that will comprise the essential foundation on which a more sustainable future will be built.
1 Environment Texas Research and Policy Center, Electric School Buses and the Grid, March 17, 2022, available at https://environmenttexas.org/reports/txe/electric-school-buses-and-grid.
2 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), Public Law 117-58, 117th Congress, November 15, 2021, available at: https://www.congress.gov/117/plaws/publ58/PLAW-117publ58.pdf.
3 SAFE (formerly Securing America’s Future Energy) and the Electrification Coalition (EC), Advancing Vehicle-to-Grid Technology Adoption: Policy Recommendations for Improved Energy Security and Resilience, June 2022, available at: https://2uj256fs8px404p3p2l7nvkd-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Advancing-Vehicle-to-Grid-Technology-Adoption.pdf.