Are bi-directional electric vehicle chargers ready for the domestic market?

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Most home electric car chargers can take power off the grid and deliver it to your car, but what if your car could also automatically turn on the lights during a power outage and offset your electricity bill by returning power back to the source during times of high demand?

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A growing number of companies, including automakers GM and Ford, are touting the benefits of bidirectional charging for consumers. But research shows that the benefits extend beyond the individual EV owner.

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For example, 2018 Environmental Research Letters of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory said California, home to the largest number of electric vehicles in the US, “may avoid a significant capital investment of several billion dollars if electric vehicles are used instead of stationary storage.”

Plug-in vehicle (V2G) and vehicle-to-home (V2H) charging, also called bi-directional charging, has long been part of the demo programs. Only recently has this technology become a possible useful addition to the more than 80-85% of electric vehicle charging that takes place at home.

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And with the flood of electric vehicles on the market, the race to introduce bi-directional charging is heating up.

Entering the secondary market

emporia Bidirectional charger

Image credits: Emporia

At least two aftermarket vendors say they will soon have bi-directional home products in the US market, one later this year and the other in 2023.

But as some automakers develop their own bi-directional charging systems, the question arises whether vendor solutions will be able to connect to them – at least initially. It’s not certain at the moment, but it looks like automakers want it to happen and there are discussions about compatibility.

Sean McLaughlin, Colorado CEO Emporia Energysaid in an interview that a 240-volt bi-directional home charger will be sold in the US in the second half of 2023 for under $1,500.

Emporia works with BREK Electronics, pioneer in the development of silicon carbide (SiC) transistors on an inverter for a bi-directional charger. The company is currently selling 48 amp home charger and smart home energy management systemamong other products.

McLaughlin said getting certified by the world leader in electrical safety, UL, is the biggest hurdle to getting a product to market. As proposed, it will integrate with the energy management system for features such as suspending charging when the air conditioner is turned on.

“We are very excited,” said McLaughlin. “It’s still early, but it’s a natural evolution of the technology — it’s been mostly pilot programs. Most major car manufacturers have announced that they will support some form of bi-directional EV charging, including Volkswagen, Ford, Chevrolet, Kia and Rivian. It’s evolving as we speak, and the key will be how each manufacturer supports it.”

He said Tesla has been “silent” about V2H and V2G, but he predicts the technology will eventually be integrated into the company’s charging.

McLaughlin said Emporia is building its bi-directional technology around the ISO 15118-20 communication protocol, which is “under final review.” BUT website schedule shows it at the approval stage. McLaughlin said his charger will be able to receive and return home 240 volts at 11.5 kilowatts.

Wallbox North America, a division of the Dutch company, said its upcoming Quasar 2 bi-directional charger will be “fully compatible with electric vehicles sold in North America”. The company said the Quasar 2 will automatically turn on in the event of a power outage and power the home for more than three days. Wallbox recently launched its $699. Charger Pulsar Plus 240 volts, 48 ​​amps (capable of responding to Alexa and Google Home voice commands) in the US market.

Wallbox Ev for charging Quasar 2(H)

Image credits: wall box

early stages

One need only look at the number of products on the market to see that the bi-directional charging industry is at a very early stage.

Wallbox sold the Quasar 1 for $3,600 in Europe, but spokeswoman Alice Bersin declined to give the actual sales figure.

She said the Quasar 1 is compatible with CHAdeMO bi-directional vehicles, including the Nissan Leaf and ENV-200, Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid and Kia Soul. She said the 11.5-kilowatt Quasar 2, which will use the dominant Combined Charging System (CCS) protocol, will hit the US market “in the fourth quarter of this year.”

The list of electric vehicles in the US market is long and growing, and Wallbox has said it will be ready to sync with them.

“We are working with North American utilities, vehicle manufacturers, and other partners to test and validate Quasar and our bi-directional charging technology to ensure compatibility with regional electrical standards, as well as EV brands and models sold in North America,” reads the statement. company message. “Indeed, part of the future success of Quasar and bidirectional charging depends on whether more electric vehicles support bidirectional communication.”

Other companies are working on bidirectional charging of electric vehicles, including Rectifier Technologies, Delta and Nuuve.

Jeff Wandell, electric vehicle communications manager at Nissan Motor Corporation, confirmed that the company is working with aftermarket vendors.

“There is currently no commercially available Nissan-certified product on the market,” he said. “However, there are companies that are in the process of developing and certifying their equipment, such as Wallbox, and hope to enter the market soon. We are actively working with a number of these companies to promote this technology and make it available to Leaf owners.”

Chris Martin, spokesman for American Honda, said the company has no news from the US about bi-directional charging, but it is being explored for the future.

There are developments in Europe, especially with automakers.

Automakers take a step

Image credits: Ford Motor Company

Honda said in January that it is partnering with the V2X Suisse consortium to host 50 Honda e electric vehicles with Switzerland’s Mobility car-sharing fleet at 40 sites. Equipped with Honda Power Manager units, the vehicles “will provide V2G energy recovery for mobility in a variety of urban and suburban sites across Switzerland.” Honda e vehicles will be able to feed 20 kilowatts of power back into the grid when connected to a bi-directional station.

At the end of last year, Volkswagen called bi-directional charging is a “groundbreaking technology” that will be on all IDs. models with 77 kilowatt-hour batteries in the future. The company said its plan includes dedicated DC BiDi wall boxes, and that over-the-air upgrades can be used to upgrade the system of vehicles already delivered.

And according to a Rivian spokesperson, “All R1T and R1S vehicles have car-to-car (V2V) and car-to-home (V2H) capabilities. While bi-directional charging capabilities exist in Rivian vehicles, regulatory and other regional variables are an important consideration for potential future V2G applications.”

Other automakers are working on proprietary charging systems, although they may not be plug-and-play.

In 2020, electric vehicle startup maker Lucid said it was working with a charging company called QMerit for bi-directional V2G capability in the air. And Ford will offer what it calls Intelligent Backup Power on the upcoming F-150 Lightning electric truck. Ford will also partner with leading solar PV supplier Sunrun to bring energy storage and solar power to homes. 80 amp Ford Pro Charging Station would need.

“For the Lightning, this won’t work with a conventional Tier II charger,” said Sam Abuelsamid, principal e-mobility analyst at Guidehouse Insights in Detroit. “It only outputs backup power through the DC contacts. It is designed specifically to work with the smart inverter system, which includes a switch that cuts off mains power and takes it away from the truck when power goes out, so no power is fed back into the grid. At the moment, SunRun is the only company to offer a compatible kit for this.”

Bi-directional charging

Marc Tarpenning, co-founder of Tesla along with Martin Eberhard, stresses that critical safety protocols are required to power a home from a car – it’s not an easy task.

Without protection, “the voltage you feed into your home will hit a pole on your street and momentarily light high-voltage wires up to 12,000 volts,” he said. “If a crawler were to work on those wires, for example during a power outage, you would kill them almost instantly.” He added that “the house must be completely disconnected from the mains before any power can be applied inside. So your electric car can certainly power your home, but power companies take generator set-up very seriously, making sure they have the proper isolating ‘switches’.”

Another issue, according to Tarpenning, is related to the smart inverter system that Abuelsamid refers to. “The inverter in your car needs to be able to handle the ‘bounce’ when you turn on the house,” Tarpenning said. “For a while, the house will consume a huge amount of current when everything comes to life. This is not a problem if the inverter is designed for this, but for most EV inverters this will be a design change.”

Abuelsamid said that AC electricity could be cut off from the Lightning via the on-board ProPower system with an additional 9.6 kW power output, “but I’m pretty sure that won’t work with the Quasar.” Hyundai models that are limited to 1.9 kilowatts via an adapter that plugs into the J1772 connector “may work with the Quasar with the appropriate software update,” he said. “I have yet to see any details on how Lucid implements its bi-directional capabilities.”

Ryan O’Gorman, Ford’s lead energy services strategist, said in an email: “The F-150 Lightning is not currently compatible with other options. It is our understanding that ISO 15118-20 has not yet been released. As is the case with the ISO and SAE charging standards on the market today, when this 15118-20 standard is released, including bi-directional power transmission, manufacturers (such as Ford) who have implemented adopted standards in the past can be expected to support these future standards. So for now, the Ford Charge Station Pro needs a home integration system that will be available from Sunrun in 2022.”

Abuelsamid’s colleague Scott Shepherd, chief energy analyst at Guidehouse, said Lucid’s bi-directional system is AC-based, and Lucid also supplies a bi-directional AC charger. He added that Wallbox “has supported at least one V2G trial in Europe – Powerloop in the UK, operated by Octopus Energy.” More than 130 households in the UK are participating in this trial, supported by National Grid.

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