Hyundai is using a fleet of Ioniq 5 electric cars to help provide electricity to the grid in the city of Utrecht. According to Jalopnik, Hyundai and We Drive Solar have rolled out a fleet of 25 slightly modified Ioniq 5 models with vehicle-to-grid technology in the Netherlands. The cars will store energy from renewable sources and feed that clean energy back to the grid during peak usage hours.
25 cars participating in a vehicle-to-grid (V2G) experiment may not change the course of the world, but the information gleaned from this trial could move V2G technology forward significantly. Hyundai and We Drive Solar plan to increase the size of the test fleet to 150 cars by the end of this year, according to Electric.
Vehicle-To-Grid & Other Mysteries
Putting EV batteries to work powering all sorts of things is becoming a phenomenon, but there are several technologies at work in that space and it is important to understand how they are the same and how they are different. Let’s begin with the idea that batteries store electricity as DC or direct current, while many electrical devices — including some motors — operate on AC or alternating current. The electrical grid itself operates mostly on AC.
A device that converts DC to AC or vice versa is called an inverter. Most electric cars have an onboard inverter that takes the AC coming from a wall charger and converts it into DC so it can be stored in their batteries. It can also convert some of that DC back into AC to power construction or camping equipment. That function is called V2L or vehicle-to-load. Usually, its maximum capacity is fairly limited.
Most V2L systems are not capable of powering an entire residence with its refrigerator, freezer, hot water heater, electronic devices, and air conditioning. For that, we need a V2H or vehicle-to-home system with enough power to operate all those devices. But we also need something else — a switch that disconnects the home’s electrical service from the grid so that electrical workers don’t get injured while trying to repair downed power lines. Ford and Sunrun are working together to make it easy for home owners to get a complete V2H system powered by the battery in an F-150 Lightning pickup truck.
The last piece of the puzzle is vehicle-to-grid or V2G. That technology uses all of the above pieces, but adds one more critical component — the ability to synchronize the frequency of the AC power provided by the battery with the grid. Without that synchronization, V2G technology could disrupt the electrical grid.
Utrecht Takes The Lead In V2G
The city of Utrecht wants to become the world leader in bi-directional V2G technology. The pilot project is focused on the Cartesius neighborhood, where the focus is on cycling and walking. If residents have to resort to a car, they have access to an Ioniq 5 from the We Drive Solar electric sharing fleet. When they are done using it, they return the car to the bi-directional charging station.
There, the batteries in those Ioniq 5 cars are recharged with renewable energy from wind or solar sources, which in turn is fed back into the grid when needed. Another advantage of the program is it cuts down on the number of cars operating in the neighborhood. Such a program would never work in the US, where people consider walking or biking something only indigent people do. We Drive Solar is involved in a number of new construction projects in the Netherlands that aim to achieve optimal cooperation between rooftop solar systems, charging stations in the neighborhood, and the car-sharing vehicles.
“We are very proud to launch this project with We Drive Solar. At Hyundai, we believe that bi-directional charging in combination with V2G technology can turn battery-electric vehicles into flexible resources,” says Michael Cole, head of Hyundai Motor Europe. “Ioniq 5 and V2G technology not only offer an alternative solution for customers looking to move away from traditional combustion engines, but also helps to increase the viability of renewable energy generation within the grid.”
Initially, the focus will be on the neighborhood where the sharing vehicles are to be stationed, but the city of Utrecht has already prepared for bigger things: In the past three years, more than 1,000 bidirectional charging points have been built throughout the region.
It’s a little silly to make enough batteries to store renewable energy and enough to power all the electric cars, trucks, and school buses in the world when those vehicle batteries can also be used to support the electrical grid. Yes, it will take a change in the way people think about using those vehicles but that same can be said about smartphones, the internet, and plant-based meat.
People have questions about V2G technology. What if I’m left with no electrons when I need to use my car? What if it degrades my battery? What if it allows the government to track me? (Note: The government has been tracking you for the past 20 years. Get over it.)
Experiments like the one in Utrecht will help us understand how to make vehicle-to-grid technology work for us to leverage the energy stored in the batteries of electric vehicles in ways that will hasten the advent of renewable energy. Now that we know how lunatics like Vladimir Putin can disrupt the availability of oil and methane, we need to push the renewable energy revolution as far and as fast as possible.
Jalopnik points out that Hyundai is not the only carmaker to explore vehicle-to-grid systems. Volkswagen, Nissan, Honda, GM, and Ford have been talking about it for a long time. Nissan has used the batteries in its LEAF electric cars to help power its headquarters and design centers in the US since 2018. Sono, the company that makes solar-powered electric cars in Europe, has also partnered with the city of Utrecht in an early V2G program using 100 of its Sion cars.
This is an idea whose time is almost here. Kudos to Hyundai and We Drive Solar for accelerating its acceptance.
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