Gasoline and batteries both share a common trait: energy storage. Whereas our cars previously ran on combustible fuels alone, electricity has become an increasingly popular method of power delivery in the past decade. Our homes, however, aren’t necessarily powered by fossil fuels unless they lose power and require a backup generator. But what if there was a single appliance that used the same energy source to drive our vehicles and power our homes in case of an emergency?
As it turns out, electric cars with densely packed battery storage fit this need perfectly, and automakers like Volkswagen are now turning their eyes towards EVs being used as more utilitarian assets, like power banks on wheels. According to a report by German news source Handelsblatt, Volkswagen will join the growing movement and enable bidirectional charging on all of its future EVs based on the MEB platform starting in 2022.
According to a 2015 study by AAA, the average U.S. commuter used to travel 29.2 miles roundtrip for work each day. That’s based on pre-pandemic data, though, and many offices have reworked telecommuting policies and instituted widespread adoption of working from home, meaning that many eligible workers will travel substantially less on an average day. That means a vehicle like the Volkswagen ID.4 with a range of 250 miles will likely only lose around 15 percent or less of its charge on a given day. Needless to say, on a fully topped-off battery, that’s a lot of stored energy just waiting to be used.
Bidirectional charging can make use of this in several ways. The most common option would likely be vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging, or feeding stored energy from the vehicle’s battery pack back into the national electric grid. But why exactly would you do this?
On top of it being a way to earn some extra cash (similar to solar panels feeding energy back into the grid), V2G charging could potentially help to stabilize spikes in power demand. This means allowing your EV to return charge back into the grid during peak usage hours and then resume charging off-hours when rates may be cheaper.
Another use case would be vehicle-to-home (V2H) or vehicle-to-building (V2B). In this scenario, a vehicle’s battery pack is used to provide resiliency in case of a power outage, allowing a structure to use the stored energy as if it were pulling from the grid. Vehicle-to-load (V2L) is beginning to make an appearance as well in vehicles like the Hyundai Ioniq 5, allowing owners to plug devices directly into the vehicle for power—think of a space heater during powerless nights.
Bidirectional charging could also be useful for cars that simply run out of power and are stuck on the side of the road. Another motorist could pull up behind you and give you a “jump” of power, enough to reach a fast charger and resume your trip, similar to a metaphorical jerrycan filled with electricity. Considering the frequency in which drivers of gasoline-powered cars still manage to do this, it seems like quite a useful feature. Maybe we’ll see an app for that someday, too.
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