How electric vehicles may be able to provide backup power for homes

One legacy automaker is set to pilot a project to use electric vehicles as backup power sources for homes. While Tesla has yet to delve into this specific area, the automaker’s other energy operations have paved the way for new energy solutions, such as one company’s hopes to create small power plants out of EVs. 

GM announced a new business arm called GM Energy this month, set to offer EV charging units that can also send power back to homes and the electrical grid, as Business Insider reports. The function, dubbed bidirectional charging, has never been seriously entertained by Tesla, though GM is set to partner with PG&E on a pilot project in California next year. 

"We're at a transformative time in the nexus between the utility and the automotive industries," said PG&E spokesperson Paul Doherty. "There's a value stack in EV batteries: supporting the grid, serving as backup power for your home, and also reducing greenhouse-gas emissions."

Doherty also added that PG&E is considering other automakers such as Tesla and Ford for similar pilot programs, which he referred to as “managed charging.” He described a system where EVs could send energy to the grid during peak demand hours between 4 and 9 p.m., charging back up when solar energy is more accessible.

The conversation surrounding renewables and alternative energy sources has gained an increasingly widespread audience in recent years, and in no small part because of Tesla’s energy business.

PG&E has also been working on a pilot program with Tesla to create what the automaker calls “Virtual Power Plants.” The Virtual Power Plants use solar energy and the Powerwall to provide energy back to the grid, in what is essentially a giant, distributed battery. The concept may well have paved the way for other automakers to consider what their vehicles can do for the grid — or as backup power for a person’s own home.

GM is also partnering with residential solar installer SunPower for a similar home-energy system to Tesla’s solar installs and Powerwall. Ford also announced a partnership with solar installer Sunrun last year. Additionally, the Ford F-150 Lightning has bidirectional charging already, and many of its owners used the electric truck as an alternate power source during Hurricane Ian earlier this month.

Above: Hurricane Ian Puts Electric Vehicles to the Test Amid Power Outages. Video: USA Today / YouTube

As to whether bidirectional charging is a direction Tesla plans to go in is unclear as of yet, though Electric Power Research Institute Technical Expert Sunil Chhaya says he expects all EVs to have the feature within half a decade, if customers and businesses start investing into it now.

​​"What is it worth to the customer?" Chhaya said. "The business case for somebody to take on the hassle of connecting and investing in all this expensive equipment has to be clear."


Source: Business Insider