California Wants All EVs To Offer Bi-Directional Charging, Tesla Will Have To Adjust

California wants all EVs to offer bi-directional charging 7 photos
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California is discussing a bill to force carmakers to offer bi-directional charging on electric vehicles starting with the 2027 model year. Tesla is reluctant to provide such capabilities, allegedly because it would hurt its Powerwall business. Bi-directional charging is seen as a way to stabilize the grid during peak times.
Electric vehicles are essentially big batteries on wheels. As soon as people realized that, it opened a new world of possibilities. From powering external devices and even charging other EVs to powering houses and businesses in emergencies, electric vehicles can do all that. Still, not all EV makers offer such capabilities in their cars. Tesla has been notoriously reluctant, which made the feature remain relatively unused, considering Tesla's grip on the EV market.

The reasons Tesla doesn't want its vehicles to act as storage batteries are diverse, but the official one is that this use-case scenario could accelerate battery wear. It simply isn't economically feasible to wear out a $50,000 car with a $20,000 battery when cheaper battery storage solutions exist. Fair enough, but some people think the real reason is that Tesla wants to sell its home battery storage system instead, known as Powerwall. The Powerwall can do pretty much what an electric vehicle's Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) capability does. It can also connect many Powerwalls in virtual power plants (VPP) to stabilize the grid in difficult situations.

Tesla might soon be forced to reconsider baking V2G capability into its electric vehicles. Senator Nancy Skinner introduced a bill in California Senate requiring all electric vehicles to offer bi-directional charging capability starting with the 2027 model year. Bill number SB 233 is supported by 64 organizations and has already been through two committees (Transportation and Energy, Utilities and Communications). During this time, the bill has been watered down, with stipulations about chargers, interoperability, and incentives removed from the final form.

The bill doesn't specify what "bi-directional capability" means but says that California Energy Commission needs to analyze the bi-directional capabilities of different EV models. Most probably, the legislators are interested in vehicle-to-grid capabilities, not the more limited vehicle-to-load (V2L) and vehicle-to-home (V2H) features. This allows the car to feed electricity into the grid, compensating during peak times.

California's grid gets overloaded during the hot summer days when more people use air conditioning. Peaker plants must start generating electricity during these times to meet the high demand. Still, they are highly polluting and expensive to operate. With electric vehicles and V2G, the cars' batteries can store electricity during low-demand periods and release it into the grid at peak hours, saving the environment and their owners' bank accounts. That's because they allow people to buy electricity when it is cheap (low demand) and sell it back onto the grid when it's expensive (peak hours).

Vehicle-to-grid capability needs the carmakers' support, but it relies on more than just the cars to be V2G-capable. It also requires a bi-directional wall charger. Utility companies also need to integrate all these so-called microgrids to use the myriads of electric vehicles as a power backup. Stabilizing the grid requires a lot of battery storage capacity, and the California Senate's bill aims at facilitating this. It remains to be seen if people would like to cede control to an algorithm and risk finding their EVs with less charge when they need it the most just because it was used to support the grid in a peak-demand period.
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About the author: Cristian Agatie
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After his childhood dream of becoming a "tractor operator" didn't pan out, Cristian turned to journalism, first in print and later moving to online media. His top interests are electric vehicles and new energy solutions.
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