General Motors, PG&E pilot EVs as backup power sources for homes – TechCrunch

General Motors and Pacific Gas and Electric Company are launching a pilot project that will allow electric vehicle owners to use their vehicle as a backup power source for their home in the event of an outage.

The companies plan to test the two-way charging technology — which includes a V2H-enabled electric vehicle and charger — starting this summer at PG&E Applied Technology Services facilities in San Ramon, California. The pilot project will involve collaborating on both bi-directional hardware and software capable of managing power flows between the EV, home and grid.

After the lab tests, the companies will conduct tests in a field demonstration in a small subset of customer homes in PG&E’s service area, according to the companies.

As more automakers like GM pursue aggressive electrification plans over the next few years, it will become necessary to find ways to store and reallocate energy supplies to avoid overloading the grid. This is especially true in states like California, where utility providers like PG&E have had to cut power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses to keep power lines from starting wildfires in weather conditions. high risk.

“We have the most registered electric vehicles in our service territory in the country, and as we looked at this resource, and it continued to evolve, the genesis of it all was how to make power outages invisible. ?” said Aaron August, vice president of business development for PG&E, during a press briefing on Monday. “You start looking at all these mobile batteries. How can we really get them to contribute to some of the different impacts that we see through climate change and other weather events? »

Other companies are also exploring ways to return power to the grid or home via EV batteries. Tesla’s Powerwall, for example, uses the same batteries in Tesla vehicles to store solar power for backup protection, and Ford’s new F-150 Lightning electric pickup will also be able to power homes in the event of an outage. .

“I can’t speak for our competitors, but I can tell you that GM’s pilot with PG&E is comprehensive, focusing not just on physical load-bearing hardware alone, but on software and network integration and capabilities. of AC-DC power conversion needed to ensure bi-directional charging truly works automatically and provides our customers with a consistent experience when needed,” Phil Lienert, a GM spokesperson, told TechCrunch.

Transforming alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC) voltage, which can then be used to power electrical devices, is the industry standard today, which means that the technology offered by GM and PG&E will be more easily integrated into how today’s grid powers batteries.

GM wouldn’t share which vehicles in its lineup would be used to test this technology, saying only that it would start with the electric vehicle models it already has in production and eventually intends to use everything in its fleet. While GM has many EVs lined up for the next few years, there are only a few EVs in its portfolio today, including the GMC Hummer EV and the Chevrolet Bolt.

GM is expected to restart production of the Chevrolet Bolt EVs, which had halted production as the automaker replaces batteries in existing Bolts under recall.

The pilot is still in its early stages, so neither GM nor PG&E could share details about what the planned tests at customers’ homes would look like. For example, the utility company would not say whether it would selectively shut off power to certain customers, allowing them to use their electric vehicles as a backup generator.

Teams are working to rapidly evolve the driver with the goal of opening larger customer trials by the end of the year, GM said.

Going forward, PG&E will use learnings from GM’s pilot to advance vehicle-to-grid technology, August said, especially since relying on renewables can sometimes lead to situations where demand is higher. on offer.

“Imagine a future where everyone drives an electric vehicle – and where that electric vehicle serves as a home backup power option and a broader resource for the grid,” said PG&E CEO Patti Poppe. in a press release. “Not only is this a huge step forward for electrical reliability and climate resilience, but it’s another benefit of clean electric vehicles, which are so important in our collective fight against climate change.”

Rosemary C. Kearney