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June 12, 2018

A quick guide to bidirectional charging

Energy solutions

Bidirectional charging and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) are among the most hyped up concepts in the electric vehicle (EV) charging industry. But what do they actually mean and what do they have to do with smart EV charging?

After reading this article, you should be able to answer all these questions—and more! So let’s get down to business. 👇

 

What is bidirectional charging? And what does it have to do with V2G?

In simple terms, bidirectional charging allows us to not only charge the batteries of electric vehicles but to also take energy from car batteries and push it back to the power grid to help balance momentary spikes in electricity demand.

Bidirectional charging is powered by vehicle-to-grid (or V2G) technology. V2G allows us to communicate with the energy system to help stabilize the power grid through demand response services.

Bidirectional charging and vehicle-to-grid are often used as synonyms, even though technically bidirectional charging refers to two-way charging, while V2G is the technology that allows the one-way flow of energy from the car battery back to the grid. 

 

What’s the difference between bidirectional charging and smart charging?

Smart EV charging, i.e. a cloud connection between an EV, a charging device, and a charging operator, is a prerequisite for bidirectional charging. Without this connection, there would be no information flowing between the power grid and the vehicle. Thus, it would be impossible to know when the power grid requires balancing.

In short, bidirectional charging can be considered a feature of smart EV charging. 

 

The benefits of bidirectional charging

So why do we need bidirectional charging, then?

Firstly, bidirectional charging is a great way to locally manage momentary spikes in electricity consumption. Instead of having to invest a ton of money in replacing a real estate property’s electricity system to prepare for managing heavier loads, electric cars can be used as temporary energy reserves.

Secondly, the power grid and the planet both benefit from V2G, as the technology makes it possible to reserve renewable energy and pull it back into use exactly when it’s needed. Because the production of solar and wind energy is extremely unpredictable, without V2G, a lot of renewable energy would go to waste.

Thirdly, if environmental consciousness isn’t enough of a motivation for consumers, taking part in bidirectional charging is likely to become a cost-effective EV charging method. By agreeing to use their vehicles as flexible energy containment reserves, consumers will most likely be able to enjoy lower charging prices.

 

What’s the current status of bidirectional charging?

By now, you’re probably wondering just how long it will take for V2G to become mainstream.

While we don’t have a crystal ball, the first thing we need to note is that the technology required for bidirectional charging already exists. In fact, you can check out this video to get a better understanding of how we’re using V2G on a daily basis at the Virta HQ in Helsinki. 

 

The second thing that’s required for bidirectional charging to become mainstream is compatible vehicles. Currently Nissan is leading the charge when it comes to manufacturing V2G-enabled cars—but fortunately other brands like Mitsubishi are following suit. 

And finally, while the energy sector and utilities have been somewhat slow to respond to the possibilities of V2G, it’s important to note that bidirectional charging can’t become commonplace without their support. However, since there are huge benefits to be reaped from bidirectional charging, it’s only a matter of time until utilities begin heavily investing in managing renewable energy through V2G.

And psst! If you’re interested in reading more about vehicle-to-grid, check out our ultimate guide to V2G. ⚡️

Read more about V2G

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