Bidirectional Charging Technology: The Way of the Future or a Fad?

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Mr. La Forge, set EV battery phasers to charge and engage! One day, not too far off into the future, we could be powering up our homes, schools, hospitals, offices, or even part of the local electrical grid just by parking our cars.
In 2021, in the United States alone, over 289.5 million vehicles were registered officially. That includes all types of vehicles like motorcycles, regular cars, SUVs, vans, buses, or other heavy-duty vehicles.

According to the census from July 2021, almost 331.9 million people were living in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Carried to four, divided by pi, multiplied by Fibonacci's number, (I'm kidding of course), that means roughly 1.14 people per vehicle. The census also showed that in 2020, almost 92% of regular households had some type of personal vehicle.

UCLA professor Donald Shoup carried out a study back in 2016 involving parking. His research concluded that the average Joe’s car sits like patience on a monument 95% of the time.

Another similar study back in 2012, only this time from the U.K., stated that the casual driver’s car does nothing as well for 96% of its lifetime.

Aside from paying for parking spaces away from your personal garage, there's not much practicality for a community or a city from vehicles taking up space.

However, all of that could change with the help of Vehicle-to-Grid technology, or V2G. The science behind it is pretty straightforward. One bidirectional charging EV, one house and you’re off to the races. Basically, it depletes your vehicle and sends electricity to another power source. Think of it like a completely silent non-Diesel generator.

The purpose behind the bidirectional technology is to charge electric vehicles during the night when the electricity bill doesn’t tear a hole in your bank account, then use said vehicle to charge something else during peak consumption hours of the day. Sort of like a “poor man’s” solar panels, if you will.

The average American household uses about 867-kWh per month, meaning 28.9-kWh per day. If we take the Nissan Leaf’s 40-kWh battery pack and apply the proper math, it turns out that theoretically the Leaf could power your entire house for 24 hours and at the end of the day still have 27.75% juice left. Your mileage may vary of course.

Now, maybe just like me, you’re thinking “why should I deplete my car if I’m planning to use it again later or what if an emergency comes up and I can’t drive?” Personally, I find no fault with that logic and it’s a calculated risk we'd have to take. At leat when said logic is applied to personal home use for 24h straight.

However, if enough families connected to the same grid would do it at certain points during the day, especially when they get home from work and all the house appliances get turned on at the same time, that could greatly reduce the strain on the local power grid. One benefit would be that this could prevent blackouts and other such disasters. If nothing else, it’ll keep your beers cool, no downside there.

Another scenario would be if you have an EV and work from home like recent circumstances forced us to do so, for better or worse. By not getting stuck in traffic for three to five hours per day, and with your car just chillin’ in the garage, you might have a winning combo there with bidirectional charging technology.

Not to mention when it could be used in a school, public transportation system, or taxi company, let’s say. Then, the entire paradigm shifts a bit. To the best of my knowledge, rarely does one of them use 100% of its vehicle fleet. Granted, during peak hours of the day, sure, there might even be too much demand to handle.

But toward the end of the day, let’s say after seven or eight pm when people aren’t packed like sardines inside a sweaty bus anymore, the unused EVs could power up the buildings or facilities in question. Even fire departments or police stations would probably make good candidates as well. Evidently, in an extremely well-planned out scenario with 0% risk involved.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that by 2030 there will be over 130 million of these generators on wheels. And seeing as though they will basically just sit around for 95% of their lifetime, this entire bidirectional charging thingamajig doesn’t sound like such a bad idea, does it?

In theory, it will save you and other public or private financial entities money, help the environment immensely by not having to fire up the old coal plants as a backup for the power grid, and as battery consumption technology improves so will its usefulness in these situations.

"Cars are parked 95% of the time". Let's check!
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About the author: Codrin Spiridon
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Codrin just loves American classics, from the 1940s and ‘50s, all the way to the muscle cars of the '60s and '70s. In his perfect world, we'll still see Hudsons and Road Runners roaming the streets for years to come (even in EV form, if that's what it takes to keep the aesthetic alive).
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