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A few hunches on how we get to V2X ASAP
I'm thinking about Vehicle To Everything differently after seeing B2U's second power plant.
Welcome to My Next Electric’s weekly newsletter on the clean energy transition, specifically the electrification of traditionally fossil-fueled stuff! If you were forwarded this post and liked it, please subscribe! Each week we cover one of these:
Investments: a company we’ve invested in and why,
Motonerd stuff: hunches about the future of vehicles, or
Learning science: ways to help all humans learn, then go, electric. ← let’s do this one
This week, I’m sharing hunches on how us humans might learn our way into what we call V2X, or Vehicle to Everything.
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Let’s start with one of the coolest V2X projects on the planet. Last week, I visited the second B2U Storage Solutions battery power plant — in Cuyama, CA.
As a refresher, B2U puts used EV battery packs to use as storage for the power grid — so solar energy generated in the daytime can be used right after the sun sets as everyone’s coming home. You can read more about how and why B2U does their thing here.
What’s great for B2U about opening a second power plant is that we can start testing how to build — then ship — EPS’s (EV Pack Storage) wherever someone needs to time-shift energy.
Here’s the B2U Engineering team in front of 6 packs that were trucked the two hours from Lancaster to the new plant only 24 hours earlier….
As much fun as I was having, I was struggling to find time for a follow up to my first post on V2X. I was eager to explain my ranked list in the last visual on that post. I’m psyched to break it down now.
Here’s my educator-hunch on adoption based on two variables — how hard the tech is, and how interested/psyched we can get people about it. If I weigh the second more than the first, I get this list:
Easiest: Vehicle To Load
Medium Easy: Vehicle To Home
Medium: Vehicle (1-way) To Grid
Hard: Vehicle (2-way) To Grid
V2L = Vehicle To Load
Excerpt from the podcast I mentioned in the last post: 8:10-9:20
In the podcast, Shayle shares a story of a Rivian electric truck owner powering his vasectomy surgery clinic equipment with the 120V power outlet in his truck.
I don’t do (that kind of) surgery, but I do keep a fridge and my electric bike plugged in to my electric truck. And I’m part of a response team at my church that needs me to distribute power banks charged by my truck to neighbors in a power outage.
This tech’s pretty easy: Most auto manufacturers are already installing small inverters in electric cars so we can have 110V home outlets on board.
The interest is there: It’s up to us to get as creative as we can about what to plug into that familiar outlet. #motonerds unite
V2H = Vehicle To Home
Did you see Ford’s F-150 Lightning commercial during the Super Bowl? I think it was a tipping point for many who did. When Ford showed the giant battery in that truck powering a home for days after an outage, it landed. Cars are more than transportation; they’re big rolling batteries, too.
This isn’t as easy as V2L.
The tech’s harder. The inverter to run a home needs to be way bigger than the one most car manufacturers are shipping today. We’ll need new chargers, too, that can send power both-ways, to the car for charging and back into the house when the power goes out. And we’ll need a breaker box set up smart enough to not send that power into the power grid and risk shocking the guy trying to fix the power lines. But this tech exists for homes with solar panels, and we know it works. And it doesn’t require as much from the utility as V2G will.
Interest here is high. Even Ford was surprised by how people responded to their Super Bowl ad.
Even Ford was surprised by how people responded to their Super Bowl ad.
V1G = Vehicle [1-way] To Grid
The podcast picks this up here.
This is you getting paid for not charging when the grid’s busiest. You know that Marshmallow game they make kids play? Here’s a marshmallow on a plate. If you wait a few minutes to eat it, I’ll give you a second one? That’s V1G.
If the grid operator’s worried about the grid overloading, they’ll pay you to
eat your marshmallow charge your car a few hours later.
This tech’s pretty easy. All electric cars come with software to manage this. Most wifi-connected chargers do too. Either one can be in touch with the power company and pause a charging session if the price for pausing is right. The battle between these two is underway, and that’s good. We should sort this one out, especially if we deliver some thoughtful coaching and trustworthy automation.
Interest isn’t that high now, but utilities will be motivated to make this interesting since it’s pretty low hanging fruit. Many are already exploring what the right price for this is; even my vertically-integrated utility pays me a little each month to charge late at night.
V2G: Vehicle [2-way] To Grid
The podcast picks this up here.
This one’s wicked hard. But it’s worth going after. As early as 2030, we could have enough EVs to fix the duck curve — everywhere.
This tech’s wicked hard. All of the V2H and V1G stuff above is table stakes. Plus we need the grid to be able to handle power flowing backwards from millions of homes — on a grid built to send it the other way. And we need to sort out pricing. And that’s if the utility has the courage/patience to stick with this scary proposition.
The napkin math’s there to create real interest. This report puts the storage capacity of cars that are plugged in and charged up enough to share a little extra juice each (including second-life batteries like the ones B2U’s plugging in to the grid) between 32 and 62 terawatt hours. We use about 69 terawatt hours each day globally. The duck curve problem is a four-hour, dusk-til-bedtime dilemma, so that’s about 4 Terawatts of power flowing at a time. At 800 Megawatts per new plant, that’s 5,000 natural gas peaker plants we wouldn’t have to build; we could just pay each driver to sip, slowly from the batteries they already bought with their money.
Market-based utilities (CA, TX) pay B2U for this right now because they’re helping them avoid turning on an expensive coal or gas plant. Utilities here in the Southeast will probably handle this in-house as they add solar, and it’s not clear to me that if they’ll be up for shelling out to their customers for sipping a little bit of power from many at once. Not until that duck curve gets really steep.
V2G is going to be wicked hard, but if we can pull it off, it’ll be wicked awesome.
V2G includes second-life
Before we go, let me clarify my take on V2X and how it differs slightly from GM’s Ty Jagerson in the podcast I shared last post. His definition of V2X is “Things to do when your vehicle’s plugged in.” The My Next Electric definition includes motonerd stuff like jamming used battery modules into motorcycles, like we do at Night Shift Bikes. And plugging second-life battery packs into the grid like they do at B2U. Ty’s definition covers the top row of this chart; ours includes the second.
This is an exciting, big topic that’ll mean lots of humans learning new things. And I’m all about it. Thanks for reading.