Bidirectional Charging Turns EVs Into Mobile Batteries


Electric vehicles (EVs) are known for their environmental and business benefits, such as cutting carbon emissions and fuel costs. However, there’s an emerging opportunity for EVs to unlock even more value with bidirectional charging. Here’s what you need to know about this emerging EV technology and how to take advantage of it.

What Is Bidirectional Charging?  

In a typical EV charging setup, electricity flows one way — from a power source to the vehicle’s battery. Bidirectional charging is two-way; the EV takes in electricity and can also discharge it.  For two-way charging to work, electricity is converted from alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC) so that it can be stored in the EV’s battery. Then, when you choose to discharge the vehicle’s energy, it’s converted back from DC to AC. A growing number of vehicles support bidirectional charging, including the Nissan LEAF, Hyundai IONIQ, Kia EV6, and the Ford F-150 Lightning.

Bidirectional EVs currently aren’t as common as their one-way counterparts, and certain models require special charging stations, software, and hardware. But as more businesses discover the advantages of bidirectional EVs, you can expect the tech to become more widespread and easier to implement.  

Benefits of Bidirectional Charging

Bidirectional EVs can transport electricity to where it’s needed. This flexibility creates new and financially advantageous energy opportunities. Here are some ways to leverage a bidirectional EV to cut your electricity bills and improve energy resiliency using a vehicle-to-grid (V2G) or vehicle-to-building (V2B) connection.

Participate in a Demand Response Program

During a demand response event, a utility offers financial incentives to customers who curtail their power draw when the grid is stressed during extreme weather or other emergencies. Rates vary from region to region, and funds are paid out per kilowatt-hour of load reduced. Fleet owners with bidirectional EVs could enjoy considerable, at-scale utility savings during demand response events by using stored vehicle energy to help power their facilities.

Sell Energy Back to the Grid

Some utilities let customers "sell” energy back to the utility in exchange for bill credits. Bidirectional EVs can help facilitate this practice by storing surplus energy — whether generated by onsite solar arrays or imported from the utility when rates are low — and then exporting that energy back to the grid.  

Reduce Time-of-Use Charges

Electricity providers often use a pricing model called time-of-use (TOU) charging, where, during high-use times of day, electricity may cost up to 60% more than the standard rate. Taking energy from a bidirectional EV during peak times will lessen your draw from the utility provider, reducing your bill.  

Save Money on Backup Power Generation

A generator can keep your business going during a blackout, but it comes at a cost both in terms of fuel expenditures and environmental impact. Fortunately, using energy stored in bidirectional EVs to run a portion of your facility allows you to reduce generation runtime. Not only does this keep fuel costs down, but also reduces your direct GHG emissions and carbon footprint.

Using Your EV Fleet for Bidirectional Charging

EV fleet owners can capitalize on bidirectional energy at scale, reducing fuel spend, lowering power bills, and capturing savings by sending electricity back to the grid. Fleets that are ideal candidates for utility incentives have schedules that allow vehicles to charge when energy is cheap and then sit for long stretches. For example, pilot programs involving electric school bus fleets have shown promising results.

To find out how to use bidirectional EVs in your fleet, start with an in-depth understanding of your business model, including fleet schedule and the utility incentives available in your area. Then you can create a strategy that supports your goals and optimizes energy savings.

Get Ready for Bidirectional Charging

EV technology is rapidly evolving and presents exciting opportunities for organizations looking to lessen their climate impact while saving money. Bidirectional charging, especially when applied at scale in an EV fleet, could soon become a valuable add to your energy portfolio. Learn more about setting up a charging network for EV fleets.