Will Your EV Keep the Lights on When the Grid Goes Down?

Last month’s preventative power shutoffs in California
highlighted the vulnerability of the electricity grid to threats
exacerbated by a changing climate.

In the wake of the forced outages, much has been written about
the ability of solar photovoltaic arrays
working in tandem
with stationary battery storage systems to
keep the lights on when the grid goes down. But what about the
mobile battery packs carried in the hundreds of thousands of
electric vehicles now on the road in California?

For much of any given day, EVs are parked in garages or at
offices. When paired with a power control system, the battery packs
in those EVs are functionally little different than a stationary
battery system.

One big difference: EV battery packs are much larger. Many EVs
on the market today are outfitted with battery packs with
capacities ranging from 40 to 65 kilowatt-hours. Tesla vehicle
battery packs are even larger, up to 100 kilowatt-hours in the
Model S or Model X. By comparison, Tesla’s Powerwall home battery has a
13.5 kilowatt-hour nameplate capacity.

Nissan, as one example, estimates that its all-electric Leaf,
when connected to a vehicle-to-home (V2H) system, can power an
average home in Japan for two to four days depending on whether the
homeowner drives the standard (40 kilowatt-hour) or extended-range
e+ (62 kilowatt-hour) next-generation Leaf.

According to Nissan, electric vehicles on the road manufactured
by the automaker
contain more than 10 gigawatt-hours
 of combined storage

EV disaster response assistance in Japan

California officials seeking guidance on how electric vehicle
batteries can be enlisted for emergency response could look to
Japan, where EVs have been deployed in disaster zones to restore
power to critical facilities for nearly a decade.

Nissan sent
66 first-generation Leafs
to the northeastern coast of Japan in
the wake of the March 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.

“Medical professionals at an evacuation center were the first
ones who approached us about possibly using them as back-up
batteries for heating and other purposes,” recalled Ryusuke
Hayashi, Nissan’s senior manager of EV operations. “That
experience triggered Nissan to accelerate development that enables
EVs to share the energy stored in their batteries with homes,
buildings and communities.”

In the intervening years, Nissan has partnered with local
governments and the private sector in Japan to make Leafs available
to restore power in emergencies. Examples of such partnerships
include agreements with municipalities to make Nissan EVs their
official vehicles, making test-drive EVs from local dealers
available for free after disasters, and a deal with a chain of
convenience stores to use Leafs as a power source during grid

Most recently, in September 2019, Nissan sent
more than 50 Leafs to power community centers
in Chiba
prefecture, east of Tokyo, in response to grid outages caused by
Typhoon Faxai.

Since electric vehicles do not produce exhaust they can be
safely operated indoors.

The power control system used for “Leaf to Home”
functionality, the EV Power Station, is manufactured by Nichicon
Corporation. According to Nissan spokesperson Azusa Momose, Leaf
customers in Japan do not purchase the EV Power Station from Nissan
but can order the system at Nissan dealers. For now, U.S. Nissan
dealers do not offer the product to Leaf customers.

Startups enter the V2H space

Meanwhile, California awaits as a future V2H market.

Montreal-based startup Ossiaco plans to introduce its V2H
platform, dcbel, in California in March 2020. The system, a
bi-directional charger with a built-in solar inverter, works with
any electric vehicle with a CHAdeMO DC fast-charging port. No
onboard software from the vehicle is required to operate the

“Initially, what it’s going to offer is really an
unparalleled resilience for homeowners and small businesses to be
able to keep their homes powered through grid outages,” Ossiaco
representative John Sarter told GTM. Sarter also manages the North
Bay Community Resilience Initiative for the Clean Coalition, a
California-based nonprofit organization.

While Ossiaco appears to be out in front in bringing V2H to
the California market, expect more entrants to follow. According to
Kelly McCoy, a research associate on Wood Mackenzie Power &
Renewables’ grid edge team, other companies to watch in the space
include vehicle-to-grid startups Fermata Energy and Nuvve.

Ossiaco is working on agreements with automakers to determine
the power export potential of their EV models when paired with the
dcbel. Under an agreement reached with Nissan, the automaker’s
EVs can export up to 10 kilowatts of continuous power using the
Ossiaco V2H platform.

Sarter said 20 dcbel units will be made available for pilot
projects in California next year. Ossiaco has applied for grant
funding to launch pilots with Silicon Valley Clean Energy, a
community-choice aggregator (CCA). The company is also working to
make the dcbel available at the
Advanced Energy Center
, a hub for emerging energy technologies
Sonoma Clean Power plans to open in downtown Santa Rosa in

Earlier this week, a group of San Francisco Bay Area CCAs
affirmed their interest in distributed energy storage.

Three CCAs, including Silicon Valley Clean Energy, along with
municipal utility Silicon Valley Power, issued a solicitation for

30 megawatts of behind-the-meter batteries
. The solicitation
calls for projects, which are intended to enable low-income and
medically vulnerable customers to maintain power during grid
outages, to be underway in time for the 2020 fire season.

A Pacific Gas and Electric Company
released in February 2018 confirmed the technical
feasibility of V2H and “its ability, when purchased and installed
by a customer, to cost-effectively respond to a demand response
event from a program administrator standpoint.” At the same time,
the authors noted the “lack of commercially available
technologies for a full V2H system in California today.”

Source: FS – GreenTech Media
Will Your EV Keep the Lights on When the Grid Goes Down?