What is Bidirectional EV Charging And Why is it Such a Big Deal?

Quasar 2 Purple
What Is Bidirectional Ev Charging And Why Is It Such A Big Deal? 4

As electric vehicles (EVs) continue to gain popularity, bidirectional EV charging is emerging as a game-changing technology. This has profound implications not just for the electric vehicle market but for the entire energy system.

Far more advanced than a traditional charger, a bidirectional EV charger allows for more than just the charging of your car; it also allows for the electricity to flow in the opposite direction from the vehicle back into the house (V2H), or into the grid (V2G), or to any other device that uses electricity (V2L).

In fact, the potential benefits of bidirectional charging are so extensive, that the term V2X (vehicle to everything) is starting to gain traction among experts in the field. 

In this post we’ll explain what bidirectional EV charging is and how it works. We’ll explore what it all could mean for your home, your car and the entire electrical grid. And we’ll list the current EV models that offer bidirectional charging, as well as those that will be offering it soon. 

Finally, we’ll take a glimpse into the future by examining how mainstream adoption of bidirectional EV charging is likely to revolutionize vehicle use through V2X integration. So join us on this journey to better understand this transformative technology shaping our sustainable future.

Understanding Bidirectional EV Charging

Most EVs currently employ a unidirectional charging process, whereby electricity from the grid is converted to direct current in order to power the vehicle’s battery.

A bidirectional electric vehicle charger is a far more advanced type of EV charger than the conventional unidirectional (one-way) variety. It allows electricity to travel both ways – from the home into the vehicle, and from the vehicle into the home, the grid, another vehicle or any other device that is powered by electricity.

On the face of it, this two-way flow of electrons might seem like a fairly simple concept – rather like a hose pipe that allows water to flow both ways. In reality, though, bidirectional charging involves a complex power conversion process converts DC power in to AC power, and vice versa, as it flows in either direction.

Electric vehicles run on direct current (DC), while our homes and virtually every other device we use rely on alternating current (AC). When an electric vehicle is charged, the grid’s AC power has to be converted into DC power that is stored in its battery. This transformation usually occurs in the vehicle’s built-in inverter.

If you want the power to flow in the opposite direction, from the car’s battery into your home or to the grid, the power must be reconverted back into AC. This reverse conversion means that both the charger and the vehicle’s on-board inverter need to be equipped for bidirectional charging.

What Bidirectional EV Charging Means for Owners

For over 100 years, the automobile has been used almost exclusively as a means of mobility. And with modern vehicles being parked on average for 95% of the time, they’re not even particularly efficient at that.

But as we enter the age of the electric vehicle, and with the adoption of bidirectional charging, the car becomes a much more useful machine.

Vehicle-to-home (V2H): Utilizing car battery for domestic use

V2H technology allows electric vehicles to supply power to a home or building, which can be useful in the event of a power outage. While in most parts of the country, true power outages are quite rare, homes that use solar panels as their main source of electricity arguably have an “outage” every single day – its called nighttime.

While a stand alone battery can fill that gap, why put a battery in the basement when you one that’s many times more power sitting in the driveway?

USing an EV battery to shift the amount of power your home draws from the grid can provide savings if your utility charges more for peak time use.

Vehicle-to-grid (V2G): Balancing energy demands with EV batteries

V2G technology can enable EVs to collectively provide large amounts of electricity to balance energy demand on the grid. At times of peak usage, such and late afternoon to early evening on very hot days, utility companies often have to scramble to provide enough power to meet demand.

If the sun has gone down and the wind is not blowing, that could mean they’re forced to use “dirty” and more expensive sources of electricity such as coal or natural gas plants.

A far better option is to draw that excess power from a fleet of EVs that are not being used, and offering their owners credits on their own electricity bills in exchange.

Vehicle-to-load (V2L): Providing AC power for appliances without dedicated chargers

A third type of charging is vehicle-to-load (V2L), which allows an EV to suply AC power to home appliances and large electronic devices. V2L doesn’t require a dedicated bidirectional charger but it does require an integrated inverter to convert the vehicle’s DC power in to AC before sending it to the device.

 This can be particularly useful during outdoor activities, emergencies, or when access to traditional power sources is limited.

Check out the Best Bidirectional EV Chargers

EV Models That Offer Bidirectional Charging

As noted earlier, bidirectional charging is not just about having the appropriate EV charger on hand. The electric vehicle itself needs to be equipped for bidirectional charging, as well. While most experts agree that it will soon become a standard feature on all EVs, as of now, only a handful of EV models currently provide bidirectional charging capabilities.

Ford F-150 Lightning with Intelligent Backup Power for Homes

Ford Sunrun Image 2
What Is Bidirectional Ev Charging And Why Is It Such A Big Deal? 5

Perhaps the highest-profile release of a bidirectional-capable EV has been the Ford F-150 Lightning, which offers Vehicle-to-Home (V2H) capability through its Intelligent Backup Power system. 

Using an 80-amp charger with up to 131 kilowatt-hours of electric energy storage, Ford’s Intelligent Backup Power system can supply an average household with electricity for up to three days of normal usage. With more cautious use of the energy stored, it can last for as long as ten days. 

The F-150 Lightning Extended Range edition comes with the charging station included, while the standard range edition requires the customer to buy the charging station separately. Homeowners can purchase a home integration system for the Intelligent Power Backup system through Ford’s solar partner Sunrun. The hardware costs $3,895 with an installation cost that varies based on location.

Nissan Leaf’s V2G System Targeting Commercial Applications

Through a partnership with Fermata Energy in Charlottesville, VA Nissan recently approved its newer Nissan Leaf models to offer V2G bidirectional charging to EV fleet owners.

With its trademarked tagline Park it. Plug it. Profit, Fermata Energy offers its bidirectional charging system to commercial and public fleet managers so that they can offset the cost of EVs by selling the power they store back to the electric utility in times of high demand.

One example is a wastewater treatment plant in Rhode Island that was able to earn $8,000 over two summers of sending the stored power in a single Nissan Leaf back to Rhode Island Energy.

The charger is currently intended for commercial buildings and fleet vehicles only, with no immediate plans to extend into residential use. Keep watching this space, though. Tings are moving very quickly in the bidirectional charging space.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 & Kia EV6 Enabling Versatile V2L Usage

The 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 vehicles both offer V2L capability, since the two cars are built on a shared vehicle platform. The Integrated Charging Control Unit is capable of supplying up to 3.6 kilowatts of power, which allows users to power large items like electric bikes or camping equipment while they’re out and about.

While they at home, the system can operate a 55-inch television and air conditioner simultaneously for over 24 hours. The system can be used with a 220-volt plug below the vehicle’s rear seats or a compatible adapter in combination with an external plug.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Providing Onboard AC Outlets

The Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid EV’s standard GT trim includes two 120-volt AC power outlets inside the vehicle. This feature allows drivers to use 1.5 kW of power for camping gear or household appliances from their car’s battery.

Automakers Developing Future Bidirectional Systems

As is often the case in automotive innovation, once a new technology takes hold in a handful of models, it is quickly adopted by the industry as a whole. 

As such, there are several manufacturers that are actively working on their own versions of bidirectional charging systems to meet the growing demand.

Volkswagen ID Models

What Is Bidirectional Ev Charging And Why Is It Such A Big Deal? 6

Volkswagen has pledged that all future ID models equipped with a 77-kWh battery will have bi-directional compatibility. The plan includes special DC BiDi wall boxes and over the air (OTA) updates that will allow vehicles that are already delivered to be retrofitted with the new technology.

Lucid Air’s Upcoming Bidirectional Charging Feature

Lucid Motors has announced in 2020 that it intends to incorporate bidirectional charging capabilities into the upcoming Lucid Air model. The US startup has partnered with charging company QMerit to offer this V2G functionality in the Air.

Rivian to Unlock Bidirectional Charging Soon

Rivian has confirmed that all of their electric vehicles will soon be able to access bi-directional charging. The necessary hardware is already available in the R1T and R1S models, and now the company has confirmed the capability should be unlocked in a future software update.

Although bidirectional charging is already available, regulations and other considerations in different regions may prevent the use of such features for vehicle-to-grid (V2G) applications. A spokesperson noted that the company is actively exploring V2G solutions and will continue to work with our partners to bring them to market.

The Future of Bidirectional EV Charging

The term most experts use when discussing the future of EV charging is V2X, which stands for vehicle to everything. This represents the idea that a car that’s capable of bi-directional charging can be used for all manner of purposed besides just mobility.

Mainstream Adoption Predicted by 2030

As the adoption of Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology gains momentum, experts predict that bidirectional charging features will become mainstream rather than unique selling points by the end of this decade. This shift has the potential to revolutionize how owners utilize and even think about their vehicles as they integrate further into daily life.

No longer will a car be seen as merely a machine that gets us around. Increasingly it will be viewed as an integral part of our home energy management system.

  • Energy management: Bidirectional charging allows homeowners to optimize energy usage by drawing power from their car batteries during peak hours or when grid electricity prices are high. This can help reduce overall energy costs and minimize strain on local grids.
  • Emergency backup power: In case of a power outage, an electric vehicle equipped with bidirectional charging capabilities can serve as an emergency backup source for essential household appliances such as refrigerators and lights.
  • Sustainable living: By enabling seamless integration between renewable energy sources like solar panels and electric vehicles, bidirectional charging promotes sustainable lifestyles while reducing carbon footprints.

As bidirectional charging becomes more widely available, it won’t only revolutionize electric vehicles but also our daily lives.

Final Thoughts

In summary, bidirectional charging is a groundbreaking advancement which permits electric vehicles to not only draw energy but also supply electricity back into the network and provide power for residences. With V2G, V2H, and V2L capabilities, EV owners can maximize their car’s potential while reducing their carbon footprint.

Current models like the Nissan Leaf, the Ford F-150 Lightning, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and the Kia EV6, and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV already offer bidirectional charging options.

The future of bidirectional charging looks promising with upcoming features from Lucid Air and Volkswagen ID models. As mainstream adoption is predicted by the end of the decade, we can expect a revolution in vehicle usage through V2X integration.

Check out Some of Our Other Posts on Electric Vehicles

EV Charging 101

Electric Cars for Beginners