Imagine using your vehicle as a backup generator for your home, or even to help a stranded motorist reach their destination. Electric vehicles claim just 5% of new vehicle market share in America, however record gas prices are spurring renewed interest in the EV lifestyle. One of the most sought-after features of electric vehicles is bidirectional charging. Also known as vehicle-to-load, or V2L, tomorrow’s cars literally have the power to do so much more than drive us around. Here’s everything you need to know about bidirectional charging in electric vehicles.
V2G, V2L & V2H: The Types of Bidirectional Charging Capability
During typical use, electric cars draw electricity from the grid, and then consume that energy to power their electric motors. What if you could reverse the flow of electricity back into the grid? Better yet, imagine making money doing it. The future of mobility is about to get weird. Cars are already becoming rolling computers, so it only makes sense that they are capable of revolutionizing the world beyond the driver’s seat.
What is bidirectional charging?
Simply put, bidirectional charging is the ability for electrical current to flow in both directions: from the grid to the vehicle (to charge the battery pack), and also from the car to the grid, another car, or household appliances.
How does bidirectional charging work?
When an electric vehicle is charged, alternating current (AC) from the grid is converted to direct current (DC) using the car’s built-in converter. To send electricity out of the battery pack and back into the grid or into another electronic device, electricity must first convert back to AC. This is done using an inverter. Vehicles that are manufactured with an inverter are already equipped with the hardware needed for bidirectional charging.
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Vehicle to grid (V2G) capability enables an electric car to return electricity to the grid. V2G can help supply energy at times of peak grid demand. In most of the world, electricity demand peaks during the afternoon and early evening. Peak demand causes demand charges, which are higher rates for usage.
Vehicle to grid capability offers a way around demand charges, to the benefit of consumers and grid operators alike. The vehicle’s owner avoids demand charges or even sells electricity to the grid, and the grid gains a new source of electricity when it’s needed the most.
Although V2G is still in its infancy, the technology opens up the possibility of future revenue streams for everyday EV drivers and even automakers. Imagine if your car could make you money while it’s parked in the garage. Rental and ride-hailing fleets could double the revenue from their autonomous vehicles by serving as power suppliers to the grid. It’s a game changing option that is coming to cars in the near future.
V2L allows an electric vehicle’s battery pack to power appliances such as power tools, a coffee machine, cooking equipment, laptops, or even a party. More importantly, vehicle-to-load capability serves as the ideal emergency power source during times of need, such as following a natural disaster or power outage. Some cars, such as the 2022 Hyundai IONIQ 5, can output 3.6 kilowatts via V2L functionality. That is a LOT of power, surely enough to power an entire campsite or family-sized outdoor event.
Naturally, one of the first uses of bidirectional charging that comes to mind is powering one’s home during a power outage. Indeed, vehicle-to-home (V2H) power supply is under development, and it’s even featured in a few of today’s production EVs. It’s important to note that accessories and professional installation of associated hardware are required before any EV can power an entire home. Still, it looks like V2H capability is a real option for EV shoppers to consider in 2022. More on today’s V2H EVs below.
Does Bidirectional Charging Harm the Battery?
The short answer is that it depends on the battery chemistry. One of the latest battery chemistry types to be employed in EVs is lithium-iron-phosphate batteries, or LFP. LFP batteries quickly rose to prominence due to their remarkable ability to withstand the stresses of repeated charging cycles without severe battery degradation.
Other battery chemistries lose range over time as the battery is charged and discharged (referred to as a charging cycle). Even charging to 100% too often can reduce the life of some battery types. LFP batteries are the perfect companion for bidirectional charging, especially vehicle-to-grid. They handle frequent charging and discharging like a champ.
Other battery types in development are engineered with bidirectional charging capability in mind. Ford’s partnership with SK Innovation resulted in a more environmentally-friendly battery chemistry suitable for the frequent charge cycles of bidirectional charging.
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Which Models Have Bidirectional Charging and V2L?
|Max Power Output||Date Available||V2L Capable?||V2H Capable?||V2G Capable in 2022?|
|Chevrolet Silverado EV||10.2 kW||2023||Yes||Yes||No|
|Ford F-150 Lightning||9.6 kW||Mid 2022||Yes||Yes||No|
|Hyundai IONIQ 5||3.6 kW||Now||Yes||No||No|
|Genesis GV60||3.6 kW||Spring 2022||Yes||No||No|
|Genesis G80||3.6 kW||2022||Yes||No||No|
|Kia EV6||1.9 kW||Now||Yes||No||No|
|Toyota bZ4X||TBD||Mid 2022||Yes||No||No|
Does Tesla Have Bidirectional Charging?
For the time being, no Tesla models are capable of bidirectional charging. It’s possible (even likely) that all 2022 Tesla models have the necessary hardware for V2G or V2L, or V2H. However, Tesla has alternative motives for delaying bidirectional charging rollout for as long as possible. If Tesla vehicles became V2H-capable, they would render the $10,500 Tesla Powerwall home battery obsolete!
A few curious Tesla owners have inquired about modifying their cars to become capable of bidirectional charging. The response from Tesla was a warning that doing so would void the vehicle’s battery warranty. So for now, don’t expect Tesla EVs to power your home or appliances.
Ford Intelligent Backup Power: F-150 Lightning
Ford’s F-150 Lightning is widely marketed as the answer to power grid anxieties. Ford Intelligent Backup Power is an available accessory to the popular F-150 Lightning electric truck. With 200,000 reservations in the books, the Lightning is already sold out through 2023.
The F-150 Lightning contains unique battery chemistry that strengthens charging cycle durability while also requiring fewer rare earth metals. Ford’s partner, SK Innovation, has developed a new battery cathode that uses 90% nickel, and 5% each of manganese and cobalt. The new battery chemistry also reduces the harmful environmental and ethical impacts of cobalt mining.
Ford’s engineers designed the new electric F-150 with V2H in mind. In the electric truck segment that’s rapidly gaining steam, automakers are looking for bold ways to make their truck a compelling buy.
“F-150 Lightning with available Ford Intelligent Backup Power can provide power and security during an electrical outage – the first electric truck in the U.S. to offer this capability; in the future, new features will offer additional ways to manage energy use and potentially save on energy costs.”
Ford touts high power output and energy storage capabilities
“The F-150 Lightning extended-range battery system can store 131 kilowatt-hours of energy and deliver up to 9.6 kilowatts of power in a cleaner, quieter, more efficient way versus gasoline-powered generators, and with greater capacity than many wall battery units. F-150 Lightning can also offer lower-cost energy storage in a product customers already own – their truck.”
How long should an electric truck be able to power an entire home? 12 hours? Three days? Ford says that depending on power demand, some homes could be powered for seven days with the F-150 Lightning’s extended range battery.
“With Ford Intelligent Backup Power and the Home Integration System, F-150 Lightning automatically kicks in to power your home if the grid goes down. Once power is restored, the system automatically reverts back to utility power. Based on an average U.S. home at 30 kilowatt-hours of use per day, F-150 Lightning with extended-range battery provides full home power for up to three days, or as long as 10 days when used in conjunction with solar power or rationing.”
Learn more about Ford Intelligent Backup Power in Ford’s official announcement.
Bidirectional charging is yet another way that the electrification of the auto industry is transforming vehicle ownership. In five years (or less), trucks will be judged for how many days they can power your home, and crossovers will be expected to power household appliances with ease.
The fact that vehicle-to-home capability relies on the professional installation of accessories sold separately seems to fly under the radar for many. While vehicle-to-load may become a standard feature that we all take for granted in a decade’s time, retrofitting a home for V2H power will remain a lofty expense for the foreseeable future.
What do you think about bidirectional charging? Do you plan to power your home with your car in the future? Let us know what you think about automaker’s bold plans for EVs in the comments below, or share your thoughts with the CarEdge Community at caredge.kinsta.cloud.
Nissan Leaf’s are bidirectional enabled; I’m not sure why they didn’t make the list. They can do V2G & V2H, just not VTL.
Thank you for pointing that out. We’ll make a correction!