As More EVs Enter the Grid, Utility and Car Companies Find Ways to Work Together

As more and more electric vehicles plug into the power grid, utility companies and auto manufactures are looking for mutually beneficial ways to work together.

In a new pilot program, BMW and Pacific Gas & Electric have taken an important step to show how EV batteries can be a valuable grid resource.

In the pilot, called the i ChargeForward program, BMW provided PG&E with 100 kilowatts of available grid resources by delaying charging for almost 100 BMW i3 vehicles in the Bay Area for one hour and using energy from a second-life stationary battery system built from reused EV batteries.

Over 18 months – from July 2015 to December 2016 – the project initiated 209 demand response events totaling 19,500 kilowatt hours. When an event was triggered, BMW used aggregation software to determine how much of a vehicle’s charge would be met by the second-life battery vs. the vehicle.

BMW then communicated a message to cars on the grid through an onboard vehicle telematics system.

The pilot also uncovered a high correlation between PG&E’s residential time of use rates and when drivers chose to charge their cars. Most drivers, the pilot found, plug their cars in when they get home, but wait to actually charge them until after 11:00 PM, when electricity prices are at their lowest.

This offers even more evidence that EVs can be a flexible grid resource. Not only do customers leave their cars plugged in for long periods of time, but they are also already sensitive to existing rate structures.

The hope of many EV manufacturers is that revenue from grid services can help make electric vehicles more affordable. At the same time, utilities can get a jump on stabilizing the grid through “smart charging” as more and more EVs enter the power grid.

The second phase of the pilot, funded by a grant from the California Energy Commission, will evaluate customer engagement strategies to incentivize EV owners to be more flexible with when and where they charge their cars.

Image Source by: Greentech Media