Fuel for thought: how electric vehicles can give back to the grid

Electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming increasingly popular as time marches on

We’re now seeing a growing grassroot push for greener alternatives in driving as more and more big auto makers are choosing to release new electric models and push the EV agenda forward.

The combined efforts of consumers and companies like Tesla are helping create positive change in vehicle usage. Despite this, EVs still trail far behind petrol and diesel vehicle registrations in the modern day. Figures from the SMMT show that EVs take up a 17.5% market share, compared to 55.4% for petrol and 16% for diesel vehicles. RingGo’s research highlights this discrepancy, finding that Brits are still lacking the drive to switch to electric vehicles – only two-fifths of UK drivers say that they are planning on buying an EV for their next car, despite 76% of the population admitting that they are aware of the environmental impacts of driving.

So, what can be done to promote drivers to switch to EVs? Another benefit for EVs and one which could help persuade some to choose electric is vehicle-to-grid charging (V2G). Electric fuel for cars already has a number of environmental and charging cost benefits, and V2G could be a way for drivers to further save on cost through energy-providing incentives.

A summary of V2G

The concept works by enabling energy stored within electric vehicles to be drawn back to the national electric network, or the grid. Normally, when there’s a surplus of electricity in the grid, EVs siphon off charge for their batteries. However, during times of peak demand on the grid or when there’s a shortage of electricity, EVs can discharge their juice back to the grid for a profit.

A parked electric vehicle can be left plugged into the grid. If the driver has opted to be part of a V2G charging programme, then software can calculate when that car should tactically receive and supply energy. Typically, these vehicles charge at night when energy demand is low and send power back to the grid during the day.

How V2G is set to take the world by storm

The system is a compelling reason for drivers to make the switch to an EV, as it empowers drivers to contribute to a wider, global cause. OVO Energy, the clean energy provider, recently initiated a V2G trial programme which connects cars across UK residences to form a virtual power plant. From the trial, the energy provider projected that, with 5.5 million 2G capable EVs in 2030, the fleet could provide 8.6 TWh of balancing over the year, meeting 77% of the grid’s needs.

Despite these environmental benefits, RingGo’s research found that almost a third (32%) of drivers who are open to EVs require a greater availability of charging points to make the switch, whilst one in five (20%) of those currently not considering an EV would consider buying one if their range were greater. Additional hesitancies to make the leap highlight the need for greater knowledge about the capabilities and benefits of electric vehicles.

Essentially, changing ingrained behaviours will be difficult in the lead up to 2030. But now is the time for the government and local authorities to highlight how each individual can contribute to the future of the planet by simply making the switch.

What does V2G mean for the environment?

V2G charging is a gift for both drivers and the environment. Financially speaking, drivers have the potential to save a couple of hundreds of pounds per year through the V2G programme. Estimates on money saved vary with energy supplier – E.ON Energy approximates that customers could save £308 per annum, whereas OVO Energy suggests that customers could save as much as £800 per year.

In addition, when implemented at scale, the system offers exciting opportunities to promote sustainable energy supply. For instance, one of the major aspects that counts against wind power is that its capability fluctuates with the weather. However, EVs could help stabilise this energy source. EVs could store surplus energy produced during windy periods and then supply it back when there’s a lull – reducing wind power intermittency.

How will the future pan out for EVs and V2G

V2G alone is not enough of a reason to buy an EV. However, in the future, we will likely see the benefits of V2G ripple through the automotive and energy industries.

Scaling V2G will be an attractive prospect for energy suppliers with the National Grid, and likewise for the Government, who are keen to meet ambitious targets to ban the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030. This means, with potential large public rollouts of V2G programmes, EVs will become more attractive options for those looking to buy a new car, as the Government and energy providers will offer financial rewards for those that choose to invest and use them to support the grid.

As millions more EVs appear on the roads and V2G programmes start to ramp up, then widespread V2G schemes will be able to make real positive changes to support the grid and better manage UK energy supply.

About the Author

Peter O’ Driscoll is Managing Director at RingGo. RingGo is the UK’s no.1 parking app, ensuring a stress-free journey every time. RingGo provides cashless parking solutions for 100s of local councils, towns, cities and private operators around the UK and is trusted by 18 million motorists.

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