With bidirectional charging, an electric vehicle has the potential to save its owner money on their home energy bill. With the right setup, an EV's battery can be charged during off-peak hours, when energy costs are lower, and then called on during those peak hours when prices rise. Even more can be saved when combined with a home solar installation.
A number of automakers are rolling out hardware and software systems to make the whole process seamless, and the latest to explore the possibility are Ford and Volkswagen.
Ford has offered bidirectional charging in its F-150 Lightning since launch, but in an announcement on Thursday the automaker said it will partner with a company called Resideo Technologies to trial an energy management system that pairs the electric pickup truck's battery with a Resideo smart thermostat used to control a home's heating and cooling system. According to Dana Huth, Resideo's executive vice president, a home's heating and cooling system is the most energy intensive device an individual uses, after a vehicle.
In addition to seeing how much money such a system could save, Ford will explore how the energy management system can be used to reduce strain on the grid and prioritize the use of cleaner energy from the grid if renewable energy is readily available, like on windy days when there is extra wind-generated electricity available. The program will run through 2024.
A Volkswagen ID.5 with bidirectional charging
VW is a little behind the curve when it comes to bidirectional charging. In a statement on Wednesday, the automaker said it is starting to introduce the technology on its ID family of EVs. The automaker said the first models to receive it will be those fitted with a 77-kwh battery and ID.Software version 3.5 or higher. None of VW's ID EVs sold in the U.S. offer the 77-kwh battery.
Like Ford, VW will test an energy management system for the home, in this case with a company called HagerEnergy. The two companies will test the system on an entire housing estate in Sweden.
Some automakers have gone a step further and are launching businesses to cater to the new demand for energy storage and charging-related technologies and services. Mercedes-Benz and Tesla were pioneers in the field with the establishment of their respective Mercedes-Benz Energy and Tesla Energy businesses in 2015, and more recently General Motors and Volvo have joined the action with their respective GM Energy and Volvo Cars Energy Solutions businesses.