As more electric vehicles (EVs) hit the road, automakers are exploring the field of bidirectional charging, which turns an EV into a power source. In the event of a power outage, for example, an EV connected to your home can reroute its power as a kind of backup source.
General Motors (GM) and public utility PG&E have announced a partnership that will explore bidirectional charging across its entire EV lineup, which is set to expand in a few years.
By this summer, the two companies expect to start testing bidirectional charging using Chevrolet Bolts in a PG&E advanced technology lab in San Ramon, California. They hope to scale the pilot to customer trials by the end of the year.
GM plans to include this technology in all of its EV offerings that are set to debut over the next few years.
In an interview, Pablo Valencia, a senior manager of charging infrastructure at GM, told Newsweek that PG&E is the ideal partner, since one in five cars within its Northern California service area are all-electric.
“It’s not an edge case,” he said. “It’s essentially a case study for their area, their population. Their network lines up well with the EV population that we’re aligning with for this type of a product.”
From PG&E’s perspective, the technology can be a tool used to stem the impact of potential blackouts. During certain weather events, like high winds that can contribute to wildfires, their best option is to plan power cuts around those events.
“They look at it, being a power company, as 6,600 megawatts worth of vehicles,” Valencia explained. “They’re looking at it as an asset. That’s really the thing that turns the world on its head is when you look at electric vehicles as being an asset for the grid to use as energy storage.”
Valencia says that they want GM customers to not only think of bidirectional charging as an asset during an emergency, but also as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in everyday life.
The pilot will use bidirectional hardware paired with new software that monitors energy output the same way current software measures energy input.
“Having that bidirectional power flow to assist with grid functionality and can reduce greenhouse gasses when they’re parked,” he added. “It’s being powerful in the garage and not just being powerful on the road.”
Ford recently announced that its 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning, equipped with a Ford Charging Station Pro and a Home Integration System from solar energy company Sunrun would allow a Lightning to power a home for up to 10 days.
The 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 and the 2022 Kia EV6 both feature a Vehicle-to-Load function, which can provide power to mobile devices, appliances and other EVs.