Electric cars are an important step towards a more sustainable society, but the cars and their batteries can do so much more than eliminate tailpipe emissions.
For example, did you know that stationary electric cars have the potential to power your house, your appliances or even return power to the energy grid?
To capitalise on that potential and help support the transition to a smarter, more sustainable and more efficient energy grid, Volvo is launching a new division called Volvo Cars Energy Solutions.
It is a new business unit that will offer energy storage and charging-related technologies and services “which form the connective tissue between our cars, our customers’ lives, the efficient use of energy and society at large,” says Volvo.
For example, bi-directional charging is a technology that allows an electric car to give back extra battery power to a compatible grid, helping to balance the grid during peak hours and reduce the need for fossil-generated electricity.
The new Volvo flagship, the fully electric EX90 SUV, will be the first Volvo car equipped with all the necessary hardware and, over time, software to enable bi-directional charging and direct energy storage from solar.
Together with Göteborg Energi Nät AB, the local grid company in Volvo’s Swedish hometown of Gothenburg, the company is now launching one of the first vehicle-to-grid (V2G) pilot programmes that aims to test such V2G technologies on the local energy grid and in a home environment with real customers. The pilot uses a low-cost AC wallbox to help accelerate widespead adoption of the technology.
The pilot project aims to gain acceptance from a grid company and to demonstrate to other grid companies that V2G programmes can provide tangible benefits. However, it is also intended to create a testing arena for new technologies that Volvo says are central to the future of Volvo Cars outside its labs.
“With bi-directional charging, you can use your car battery as an extra energy supply, for example to provide power to your home, other electric devices or another electric Volvo car,” said Alexander Petrofski, the new head of Volvo Cars Energy Solutions. “The next step would be to enable this feature all around Sweden, and hopefully that will pave the way for even broader acceptance of similar charging and energy storage services around Europe.”
Ample spare capacity
Volvo says it aims to be a fully electric car company by 2030, and bring millions of electric Volvo cars to the roads in the coming years.
Its engineers have calculated that the total battery capacity of that fleet will reach around 50 GWh by mid-decade. While these cars will use several TWh in electricity each year, this energy consumption is flexible and can be moved in time via smart charging.
At the same time, data from theVolvo fleet shows that the average daily drive in Europe uses less than 10 kWh, while 90 per cent of all daily drives use less than 20 kWh.
“This means there is ample spare battery capacity left that can be used for other purposes, with the possibility of both financial benefits for our customers and significant climate benefits.
“This is where bi-directional charging comes into play: a technology that allows customers to repurpose energy stored in the battery of their electric Volvo at a later stage. V2G is one of those scenarios, as it allows for energy to be delivered back to the power grid from the battery of an electric car when the demand for electricity is higher – against compensation.”
Petrofski says: “With the help of smart charging, you can charge your electric Volvo at the best available time from a sustainability and economy perspective. Now imagine you could use that energy later, perhaps during peak times when prices are higher and the energy mix less sustainable.
“The idea with building an energy ecosystem around your car and the batteries is that it allows you to save money and reduce your CO2 emissions, while energy firms benefit from reduced grid investments and a lower overall impact on the environment.”
Volvo says V2G is just one of the technologies that it envision as part that ecosystem under the Volvo Cars Energy Solutions banner. It is also looking at vehicle-to-home (V2H) products that allow users to send back energy to their house and lower their energy bill, as well as vehicle-to-load (V2L) services whereby an electric car battery powers camping gear or charges electric bicycles.