Charging an electric vehicle at home was once as simple as plugging it into a 110 or 220 volt outlet. But a constant stream of technological advances has given us faster charging, smart charging and, most recently, bidirectional charging, which many experts believe is about to become the next big thing for EV owners.
In this post, we’ll rank and review the best bidirectional ev chargers on the market today. We’ll also explain what bidirectional charging is, how it differs from smart charging, and how it may change the way EV owners think not only about charging, but about their vehicle’s role in their home’s overall management of energy.
What is a bidirectional EV charger?
A bidirectional electric vehicle charger is an advanced EV charger that can both charge and discharge energy from an EV battery. With unidirectional (one-way) EV chargers, electricity flows just from the power grid into the vehicle. With bidirectional (two-way) chargers, electricity can flow both ways, which has profound implications that we’ll get into later.
While bidirectional charging may sound fairly simple, it’s actually quite a complex power conversion process that utilizes a DC to AC inverter. When an EV is charged, AC electricity from the grid is converted to DC electricity that can power a car. This conversion usually takes place in the car’s onboard inverter.
But if your car has a fully charged battery that you then want to use to power a home (or perhaps send it back to the power grid in exchange for credits), it has to be (re)converted back into AC, and that conversion takes place inside the bi-directional charger.
A Bidirectional Charger is More Than Just Another Smart Charger
While smart EV chargers, such as JuiceBox, ChargePoint and Grizzle-E have been on the market for several years, bidirectional chargers take that “smartness” to a whole new level.
Smart charging really refers to any kind of EV charging (unidirectional or bidirectional) in which the charging process is controlled by a smart phone app. With such an app, an owner can plug their car in but delay the time of charging until lower off-peak electricity rates kick in, for instance.
This doesn’t only help the driver to save money, but also helps the utility company to better manage peaks in demand. Smart charging apps also provide lots of data about usage, charging times and costs that EV drivers can use to maximize their charging efficiency.
But as long as energy is only flowing one way, data analysis and time shifting will only get you so far. Bidirectional charging offers benefits that far exceed those of even the smartest unidirectional chargers.
Benefits of Bidirectional Charging for EV Owners
When a bidirectional charger is used to power a home (or any building, for that matter), it can turn a parked electric vehicle into a key player in the building’s energy management system.
This is known as vehicle to home (V2H) and would not only help out in the event of a power outage (quite rare) but pretty much any time the house needs power and either the grid or other power supply, such as solar panels, will have difficulty providing it. After all, homes that are powered with solar panels have an “outage” every day, it’s called nighttime.
It is possible, for example, that you could charge up your EV at night when there is less demand for electricity, and then use some of that power to run your home during the daytime. Doing so could help to reduce pressure on the grid during those hot summer days when everyone turns their air conditioning on at the same time.
Benefits of Bidirectional EV Charging for the Grid
Electric vehicles can also play a huge role in stabilizing energy grids by allowing utility companies to tap into their batteries to provide power at times of peak demand.
This is known as vehicle to grid (V2G), when electric cars that are plugged into bidirectional chargers supply power to the grid in exchange for credits. V2G helps utility companies to more evenly match energy supply with energy demand and ensure that everyone has access to the power they need when they need it.
Electric vehicles, after all, are like big batteries on wheels and, given that they are parked an average for 95% of the time, can often spare some of their stored up power to help meet peak demand without inconveniencing EV owners at all.
Millions of EVs, all plugged in to bidirectional chargers, can store enough power to meet an entire city’s power needs during those crucial hours between 6pm and 11pm, when power usage is typically at its peak but solar panels aren’t producing.
What Are the Top Bidirectional EV Chargers
Being such a new technology, there are only a handful of bidirectional chargers on the market right now but we expect more to become available very soon. So we’ve broken this section down into two categories – chargers that are available in the US now and chargers that we expect will be available very soon.
Wallbox, based out of Barcelona, Spain, had long been established as a market leader in Europe, and introduced the Quasar to the US at the 2020 edition of the Consumer Electronics Show. It was the first bidirectional EV charger that was specifically designed for home use and was the smallest charger of its kind to be marketed as a means by which you can use your car to power your house.
It offers advanced two-way DC charging capabilities with a maximum power rating of 7.4kW (32A), which is actually less than Wallbox’s unidirectional offering, the Pulsar Plus, but the bidirectional capability more than makes up for this.
The one limitation, as far as the US market is concerned, is that it is only compatible with vehicles that feature a CHAdeMO DC vehicle connector, a standard that is being phased out in both Europe and North America.
That means that only the later generation Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid could use the Wallbox Quasar. That’s a pretty small market for a device that costs anywhere from $4,500 to $8,000.
Clearly, an updated version will be required, which brings us to….
Wallbox Quasar 2
The Quasar 2 is Wallbox’s second generation bidirectional EV charger designed specifically for the US market and utilizing the CCS (Combined Charging System) standard vehicle connector.
The new design allows for increased power delivery from 7.4 kW to 11.5 kW, which is a big deal for a DC charger. Most home EV chargers deliver AC power, which then needs to be converted to DC by the vehicle’s onboard inverter before being delivered to the battery. That means the charging rate is limited by the capacity of that onboard inverter.
The Quasar 2 can deliver 11.5 kW of DC power directly to the batteries of cars like the Chevy Bolt or a BMWi3 that are normally limited to 7.7 kW on level 2 home charging.
The look has also been completely revamped from its original style, with the new version boasting a slim and stylish enclosure with no display. The standout feature is surely the “blackout mode” which allows your vehicle to power your home in the event of an outage. Wallbox claims that it will be able to seamlessly switch between grid supply and vehicle supply.
According to Enric Asunción, co-founder and CEO of Wallbox, “Quasar 2 represents a breakthrough in the evolution of home energy management. Not only does it allow us to rethink the way we produce, store and use energy on a day-to-day basis, but gives users the added power and comfort of being able to power their homes for over three days during an outage.”
No pricing is yet available for the Wallbox Quasar 2
Ford Charge Station Pro
Launched in conjunction with the Ford F-150 Lightning in the spring of 2022, The Ford Charge Station Pro, at $1,310, is significantly more expensive than your average home charger. Then again, the Ford Charge Station Pro is not your average wall charger.
At a rating of 80 amps, it has twice the capacity of the average charger, potentially adding 30 miles of range per hour to the F-150 Lightning Extended Range and 19 miles per hour for F-150 Standard Range.What’s more, it has exceptional vehicle to home energy storage capacity, a feature that Ford describes as Intelligent Backup Power.
Developed in association with Siemens eMobility and installed through a partnership with Sunrun, the nation’s largest installer of residential solar, the Ford Charge Station Pro will allow a homeowner to use their truck to power a home not just for a few hours, but for up to 10 days.
But it’s important to note that the bidirectional charging feature can only be used in conjunction with Ford’s Home Integration System to enable what Ford calls intelligent backup power. This system consists of energy meters, monitoring equipment and a transfer switch that allows for grid isolation so that power doesn’t flow back into the grid and endanger line crews who are out working to restore power.
Emporia V2X Bi-directional Charger
In February of 2022, Emporia Energy and BREK Electronics, two companies based in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado, announced a partnership to develop the Emporia V2X bi-directional charger.
Emporia Energy specializes in smart home energy management products while BREK electronics has developed an integrated silicon-carbide-based AC/DC inverter that is rated at a maximum of 48A or 11.52kW.
Between them, they’ve come up with a bidirectional charger that is compatible with CSS Type 1 connectors and can be incorporated with the Emporia Vue home energy management system for automated energy use and storage.
They claim that their charger will be the first of its kind to be made available in North America and hope to bring it to market at a price point that is less than $1,500. That would make it one of the cheapest universal bi-directional chargers out there by some distance.
It is expected to be available sometime in 2023.
Autel MaxiCharger V2X
Autel Energy is the US-based subsidiary of Chinese-owned Shenzhen Daotong Technology. Since 2004, it has specialized in intelligent automotive products and services, including the popular Autel MaxiCharger Home Smart Electric Vehicle (EV) Charger.
It now plans to release the MaxiCharger DCV2X, a bidirectional 7 and 12 kW DC residential charger in the second quarter of 2023. It will offer both V2G and V2H functions (V2X stands for vehicle-to-everything) and will be compatible with either CCS1 or CHAdeMO vehicle connectors.
The MaxiCharger V2X is also notable in that the CSS1 version operates with a wide DC voltage range from 150 to 950V DC, which means it will be compatible with newer high-voltage vehicle platforms.
Fermata Energy FE-15
Charlottesville, VA based Fermata Energy released its FE-15 bidirectional charger back in 2020, but only for use with commercial fleets. The company claims that its bidirectional charger is “the nation’s leader in proven V2X systems” and that they have been “earning customers thousands of dollars per EV per year since its release in 2020.”
In the fall of 2022, Nissan approved the FE-15 as the first bidirectional charger that can be used with the Nissan Leaf to power buildings and send stored power back to the grid.
The second generation FE-20 is coming in Q1 of 2023. Manufactured by the Dutch company Heliox, it will have 20 kW for both charging and discharging. Fermata is already taking pre-orders from fleet customers.
As for a residential version, company representative Daniel Cherrin says that is something that will have to be put on hold for the time being.
There are many benefits to using a bidirectional charger, both for the individual and for the grid. While there are only a handful options on the market right now, we expect bidirectional charging to be a game changer in EV charging space in the very near future.