V2G tech can provide outage support, claim Australian researchers

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From pv magazine Australia

A five-year ANU Canberra study, led by ANU Battery Storage and Grid Integration Program Senior Research Fellow Dr. Bjorn Sturmberg, has shown that EVs can provide backup to the grid in an emergency.

Sixteen electric vehicles in the study fed power back into the electricity grid during a major outage in February 2024. The outage provided the right conditions for the first real-world test of EVs and chargers.

“We now know a vehicle-to-grid system can work because they’re essentially big batteries on wheels,” said Sturmberg.

Australian National University research shows vehicles sending power to the grid during a real-world emergency.Image: Australian National University

“We have a fleet of 51 EVs across Canberra that monitor the grid whenever they’re plugged in and can quickly inject short bursts of power to rebalance the system if the national grid rapidly loses power.”

During major storms in Melbourne in February 2024, 16 Nissan Leaf EVs were plugged in at properties across Canberra, with four actively charging and 12 remaining idle.

“These vehicles quickly stopped charging and within seconds started discharging power into the grid, as they’ve been programmed to do,” said Sturmberg. “In total, they provided 107 kW of support to the national grid and to put that in perspective, 105,000 vehicles responding in this way would fully cover the backup required for the whole of [the Australian Capital Territory] and [New South Wales] … For context, there were just under 100,000 EVs sold in Australia last year.”

Australian National University researcher Dr Bjorn Sturmberg
Image: Crystal Li Australian National University

Sturmberg said there is still work to be done to balance the growing demand for vehicle charging with grid security.

“With the number of EVs on our roads growing fast, the grid won’t be able to cope with everyone charging at the same time when they get home in the evening,” he said. “Additionally, in the case of the February emergency, once the vehicles had provided power for 10 minutes some resumed charging by default. There would be little cost or inconvenience in delaying charging for an hour or two in this kind of situation.”

Sturmberg said taking advantage of the opportunity may call for an industry adjustment, where EV manufacturers program their vehicles to stop charging during a grid emergency, with an option for drivers to override for urgent charging.

“Stopping just 6,000 vehicles charging would have kept the power on for those 90,000 customers whose power was cut on Feb. 13,” said Sturmberg. “Our results show that vehicle-to-grid can be a powerful contributor to our power system’s security, and that all electric vehicles have an important role to play.”

Sturmberg outlined two paths forward, with the first involving manufacturers bringing their bidirectional chargers to Australia in the future.

“Or, there’s exciting research on moving that kind of power electronics and power management out of a charger and into the vehicle, and the difference then is you charge with AC charging rather than DC charging and you can use a regular charger and connection to the grid, and it’s the car itself that is deciding whether to import or export power to the grid,” he said.

Sturmberg noted that during a grid emergency, the priority should be to halt the charging of vehicles, rather than risking households and businesses experiencing blackouts.

“In that context, consumer behavioural expectations would need to shift too so EV owners know that part of EV ownership is knowing once every five years their car will stop charging for an hour because of an emergency in the power system,” he said.

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