The Electrification of Everything
By Carter Hammett
As we look towards 2023 and beyond, a plethora of new developments including Vehicle-to-Grid is promising a positive evolution in the next generation of electric vehicles.
In the aftermath of a global pandemic, and the supply chain fiasco that resulted from it, I dare say that we are inching – perhaps limping – towards something I hesitate to call “recovery.”
They say good things always emerge out a war and in the context of the automotive industry some good things have indeed happened, especially in the electric vehicle (EV) sector. On December 5, Canada’s first full-scale EV manufacturing plant opened in Ingersoll Ont. Most recently Ottawa announced December 21 that one fifth of all passenger vehicles will need to run on electricity under new regulations by 2026.
By 2030 that number rises to 60 per cent of all sales and by 2035 all passenger vehicles sold in Canada will need to be electric.
While that sounds promising indeed, Canada lags far behind many industrialized countries in terms of sheer sales. Indeed, EVs and plug-in hybrids accounted for about 8.4 per cent of new car registrations in 2022, up somewhat from 5.6 in 2021.
Perhaps that will change as knowledge about the latest generation of EVs starts to sink in with the general public. Exciting things are happening in the EV world, not least of which is the ability to keep your family safe and warm in the event of power failures.
Indeed, an EV feature that’s becoming increasingly present is something called Vehicle to Load (V2L) which enables users to plug in items ranging from laptops to coffee makers to electric power tools and run them off the car’s lithium-ion battery. Just imagine being able to plug in your Keurig for that perfect cuppa jo while operating the photocopier, all from your vehicle.
Some countries have been experimenting with this kind of technology for a few years now and this development is gradually being introduced into an increasing number of vehicles. One of the most promising is the 2022 Ford-150 Lightning, says Jérémie Bernardin, business development manager with All EV (www.allev.ca)
“The latest incarnation of the F-150 can provide power to a home in the event of a power shortage using an item called Vehicle to Home (V2H),” says Bernardin.
The car’s system can store up 131 kilowatt hours of energy and deliver up to 9.6 kilowatts of power directly back into your house if a power outage occurs. A home integration system is needed to make this happen and costs a fair amount if the purchaser wants a turnkey structure that powers the whole electrical system, with a supplier to be determined by Ford. However, if the price is elusive, and the consumer chooses to opt out of installing expensive infrastructure, they can simply buy an extension cord and power critical loads including your fridge, freezer, coffee machine and other appliances.
The typical home uses an average of about 30kWh daily and the F-150 can generate enough power to keep your home going for three days at full capacity or a maximum of 10 days depending on staggered energy use. Given that this story is being written as “Snowmaggedon” approaches, this is one feature that sounds especially attractive. Other vehicles that offer similar performance – for Vehicle to Load–include the 2022 Kia EV6 and the 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
Perhaps the most exciting development in the EV world though is an item known as Vehicle to Grid (V2G). Using a capability called bidirectional charging, which, in addition to reducing the impact of most power failures, it will eventually also be able to return power to the grid.
Up to now, most EVs’ batteries have been designed only to run the vehicle, but with bidirectional charging cars are able to actually discharge power from the batteries, returning it back to the grid when plugged in.
And with extreme weather more likely to manifest in oncoming years—the power outages throughout the Atlantic region caused by Hurricane Fiona come to mind—due to climate change, this technology could be a God-send.
But with V2G technology feeding power can conceivably go beyond a single building to the grid and eventually assist the entire power system.
“This has the potential to usher us into a field of smart grids,” says Bernardin. “We could be decarbonizing society.”
And while researchers have been experimenting with fossil fuel alternatives like wind and solar for decades, they have proven to be reasonably good intermittent source of renewable energy. When combined with large battery storage, they can be counted on for a sizeable portion of energy production.
At present, wind and solar combined account for 10 per cent of the power variables as of 2019 but need to grow to 60 per cent by 2050 if they intend to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement. Furthermore, their capacities vary and will need more storage and backup power to manage system demand. EVs can potentially solve this issue by using bidirectional charging.
With this capacity, when vehicles aren’t in use – typically while people are either sleeping or working – they can potentially sell power back to the grid. This way, everyone can benefit when demand for energy is highest. Increased use of air conditioning during a heatwave might be a good example of this.
The global number of EVs expected to be in use by 2050 will top one billion. This has the potential to create a major storage capacity. This will take some time to develop, however. Bidirectional chargers simply haven’t been widely available – one exception being DCBEL out of Quebec – and, as of this writing, haven’t even been certified for use in Canada.
Right now several studies are being conducted across North America and Europe to test the viability of V2G. In St. Jérôme P.Q., electric school buses successfully demonstrated that power could be fed back to the White Plains N.Y. grid because these vehicles are only used for a fraction of the day.
Presently, lots of variables and unknowns exist. Utility companies need to determine specific rates for consumers as they do rates for V2G, which will continue to evolve and be affected by regional differences as well. There are currently a number of programs across the country where the utility incentivizes the consumer with significantly lower electricity costs if they charge during off-peak times. And with the average number of Canadians only driving about 38 kms daily, this is a relatively easy feat to accomplish.
That said, the future looks ripe with potential for this emerging technology says Bernardin.
“Fuel prices fluctuate yet electricity’s pretty stable,” he says. “This makes it easier to plan budgets. In the long-term everyone will save money, including the utility, ratepayers, and not least, EV owners. Pretty soon we’ll be looking at the electrification of everything.”
Carter Hammett is a Toronto-based freelance writer and editor.