Electric vehicle (EV) drivers could save up to £300 a year by storing and sharing electricity in their car’s battery a research project has found. But the technology faces significant roadblocks, with fresh policy needed to enable its future.
The study was designed to examine the value of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology, where an electric vehicle is used alongside a special charger and other home systems: battery storage, solar panels, a smart hot water tank, and heat pumps. The technology is designed to maximise efficient energy usage, save money, and cut carbon emissions.
The Haven project (Home as a Virtual Energy Network) was a collaboration between The University of Salford, Good Energy, Upside Energy and Honda Motor Europe. The research took place at Salford’s Energy House — a two-storey Victorian terraced house set within an environmental chamber. Researchers were able to control the weather settings in the facility; making it rain, snow, or shine and vary temperatures between -10oC to 30oC.
Creating different real-world conditions meant the technology could be tested to see what worked best: at times generating power from solar panels, storing it overnight in an electric vehicle, or exporting the excess to the National Grid. The EV can also be used to balance how the other systems worked, allowing the house to sometimes reduce the amount of energy it imported from the grid.
The researchers found that the average home could save up to £300 a year while reducing its reliance on fossil fuels by shifting when power is saved or used. But V2G currently has a number of blockers to reaching its potential. Outlay costs are currently high, with policy incentives required to help bring prices down and enable more households to participate.
The need for scale is also key to making V2G work – batteries in electric vehicles could help absorb excess power and reduce stress on the network. But this is only efficient in the UK’s current grid system when a significant number of EVs are connected in a localised area. Enabling larger-scale localised connections, such as in car parks with several connected cars, could be an initial route to efficiently sharing power with the National Grid in times of need.
The report concluded that government has a clear role to support V2G units and make the leap from prototype to a reality. The right level of investment and support could allow the technology to play a major role in the transition to net-zero emissions.
Juliet Davenport, CEO and Founder, Good Energy said: “We must take a distributive ‘whole systems’ approach to tackling the climate emergency. That is why vehicle to grid is so exciting — it is the missing link between electrification of transport and decarbonisation of our grid and our homes. V2G is where solar power was 10 years ago – the technology exists but it requires innovation, investment and joined up thinking. With the right policy support it could become another clean technology British success story.”
Devrim Celal, CEO of Upside Energy commented: “The intelligent application of technology has the power to ensure that large scale adoption of V2G is achievable. This project has enabled us to see a clear pathway to a future where this combination of technology, combined with a joined-up strategy applied on a national scale, could have a major impact on the UK’s net zero ambitions.”
Professor Will Swan, who leads the Applied Buildings and Energy Research Group at the University of Salford’s Energy House, said: “This exciting project has helped us to identify new possibilities for sustainable domestic energy. Our research has shown potential to not only reduce our energy bills, but also relieve pressure on our national energy infrastructure. The unique Energy House test facility allowed us to demonstrate how a system like this would cope under various real-life conditions to the scale of a traditional British home. With global renewable energy supplies set to double in the next five years, we really believe that this has given us an insight into how our communities could use energy in the future and we now need to understand what these types of systems will mean for consumers.”
Jorgen Pluym, Project Leader Honda Motor Europe commented: “Ensuring that electric vehicles maximise the utilisation of renewable energy while minimising the impact of their increased grid load is critical to the success of decarbonising of mobility. Honda sees V2G as a key technology to realising a carbon-free society.”