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BMW is kicking vehicle-to-everything (V2X) into high gear with an assist from the California utility PG&E.


BMW, V2X, And The Death Of The Gasmobile

BMW is stepping up from vehicle-to-grid EV charging to kick vehicle-to-everything (V2X) into gear, with an assist from the California utility PG&E

The bad news just keeps on coming for fossil energy stakeholders. In the latest development, BMW is working with the leading California utility, PG&E, to demonstrate how EV batteries can contribute to grid stability instead of placing new burdens on the nation’s electricity infrastructure. The secret sauce is V2X, the Vehicle-to-Everything model for using an EV battery to power all sorts of electric devices.

bmw ev v2x v2g grid pg&e

BMW is kicking vehicle-to-everything (V2X) into high gear with an assist from the California utility PG&E. Photo courtesy of BMW.

Nobody Expects V2X

The infrastructure argument against widespread EV adoption has been neatly summed up by former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who called zero emission vehicles a “new way to overburden California’s already collapsing energy grid” in a segment last September.

Whoa if true. However, not true according to professionals who actually know a thing or two about electricity.

The leading utility National Grid, for example, does caution that grid issues could arise from a piecemeal approach to fleet electrification, when too many fleets are clustered in one area. Its main point, though, was to advocate for proactive, collaborative planning and infrastructure investment to foster a smooth transition to EVs.

On a broader scope, EV stakeholders are already engaged with “smart charging” strategies that take advantage of low-demand periods along with the availability of renewable energy. That includes the sprawling ERCOT-managed grid in Texas, which has engaged in a global effort to speed up renewable energy integration in tandem with EV adoption.

V2X is a key element in the strategy. Electric vehicles are actually just large batteries on wheels. Like any battery, they can be used to run individual devices or whole electrical systems. Ford is already pitching its F-150 Lightning pickup truck as an emergency backup generator, with solar power in the mix.

None of this is particularly new. Back in 2014, the US Air Force engaged a fleet of EVs in a vehicle-to-grid charging system. Around the same time, Ford paired up with KB Home to demonstrate an integrated rooftop solar-plus-storage system that leverages an EV battery to get the most bang out of off-peak electricity rates.

The question is how to best deploy V2X power for the good of the whole grid.

V2X For The Good Of The Grid

The grid question is the one that PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric) aims to answer, with an assist from BMW of North America. If all goes according to plan, the win-win-win is lower electricity bills for EV owners, improved grid reliability for everyone, and maximal use of renewable energy for the planet.

“The V2X testing is taking place at PG&E’s Applied Technology Services (ATS) Lab in San Ramon and is the focal point of an extended partnership to advance V2X technology and explore the utilization of EVs as a flexible grid resource,” PG&E explained in a press statement.

The new program is based on the success of ChargeForward, an earlier smart charging program that PG&E launched with BMW back in 2015 to reward EV drivers for charging up with more renewable energy (check out more PG&E news here). ChargeForward initially enlisted 100 BMW i3 drivers for an 18-month pilot project and is currently in its third phase.

“V2X takes smart charging to the next level, exploring how EV batteries can be used for backup generation and other grid services,” explains Adam McNeill, VP of Engineering for BMW of North America.

Try This With Your Gasmobile

As described by PG&E, the electric vehicle experience of the future will be unlike the current model of car ownership, in which the car spends most of its time sitting in a parking spot twiddling its thumbs until the driver needs to go somewhere.

Instead, PG&E envisions EVs going to work for their owners and the grid, too.

“V2X technology will someday empower EV drivers to return excess stored energy from their vehicle batteries back to the grid in exchange for compensation, presenting an ideal response to high-demand power conditions and a key solution for grid stability and resiliency,” PG&E explains.

The virtual power plant model would involve recharging EV batteries during periods when solar or wind availability peaks, enabling the whole grid to absorb more renewable energy.

So, will the vision become reality? Some of the results are already in. The new V2X project is a pilot project to assess how the technology can enable a typical California home to use the most renewable energy, and so far, so good.

“Results show that a vehicle-to-home connected EV is capable of providing roughly double the amount of renewable energy that a typical California household would be able to use on an average day, significantly increasing customers’ ability to use more green energy on a daily basis,” PG&E reported.

PG&E noted that the real-world testing also aims to assess how drivers balance their desire to drive with the desire to use more renewables.

In the latest development, BMW and PG&E are committed to V2X testing for another two years, until March 2026. The next step will involve a vehicle-to-grid (V2G) test at the BMW Group Technology Office in Mountain View. BMW is also going to develop its own fleet of V2X vehicles.

“This field test will evaluate how V2X technology can be used for advanced use cases that can be commercialized in future years and help support renewable integration on a neighborhood level to increase grid reliability on a larger scale,” PG&E stated, which indicates that the utility has its eye on fleet electrification beyond individual BMW owners.

Why Wait For PG&E?

PG&E is looking at the grid-wide implications of V2X, but individual EV owners don’t have to wait for the results of its assessment to roll in. Ford, for example, is already marketing its F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck as a rolling powerhouse for emergency backup generation, and more.

Meanwhile, the combo of renewable energy and EV charging is surfacing in some interesting places. The US Army was so eager to get its hands on the F-150 Lightning that it ordered a fleet of 25 even before the Army had EV chargers to charge them up. Further, solar power will be in play when it comes to providing those electric pickup trucks with their juice. Fort Carson plans to install six new solar-powered charging stations within the next few weeks, each with two charging ports, so the fleet should be ready to roll in short order. Another five charging stations are also in the works. Additional charging stations will probably be on the way to help accommodate plans for rolling over the Army’s entire fleet of non-tactical vehicles into EVs by 2027, which is just around the corner.

“The benefit of electricity is you can generate it in so many ways. You can generate it with solar, with wind, in a camper, and with hydropower,” an Army spokesperson said. “Electricity is going to be the fuel of tomorrow.”

No more Trainwreck Twitter. Find me on Spoutible: @TinaMCasey or LinkedIn @TinaMCasey or Mastodon @Casey or Post:  @tinamcasey

Photo: Electric vehicles with V2X charging courtesy of BMW.

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