Electric vehicles can play a key role in stabilizing the grid.

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To do this, you need to be able to store the excess electricity until the price is right, and electric cars with large batteries are essential for that electricity. For this reason, the process is called vehicle-to-grid, or more popularly V2G.

The idea has been hotly debated, and at least some see it as the answer to removing the ups and downs of renewable energy supply, making it more feasible and thus reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. The ability for consumers to sell renewable energy they don’t need for a profit is a welcome side benefit, but many say the real prize is accelerating the world’s transition to renewable energy.

An important step in testing the viability of V2G has just been completed, and the results appear to be positive. Electric Nation, a project involving partners including Western Power Distribution and demand management provider Crowd Charge, installed Wallbox Quasar V2G chargers in the homes of 100 Nissan Electric Vehicle owners to charge and discharge their cars’ batteries, allowing them to choose from four energy suppliers offering at least two different tariffs, including off-peak tariffs.

Crowd Charge remotely manages batteries to take advantage of changing tariffs, taking into account each owner’s preferences for their vehicle’s state of charge.

Nissan’s battery warranty is not affected, and the automaker says similar tests have shown no degradation in battery life.

One of the trial participants, Marie Hubbard, reported that by charging her Nissan e-NV200 camper van during the night when electricity prices were lower, she earned £25 a month selling her electricity back to the grid at peak times.

Because she uses solar panels to charge her electric car, she’s also able to take advantage of the V2G charger’s ability to power her home with electricity from her car’s battery. This has resulted in her monthly electricity bill being halved from £50 to £25.

In November 2021, when energy costs are skyrocketing, some participants can earn £50 a day by selling electricity back to the Grid. However, this is an extraordinary time. In 2021, previous projects funded by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles and involving the likes of Nissan and Ovo Energy reported that participants could earn up to £725 a year selling electricity back to the Grid.

Mike Potter, CEO of Crowd Charge, said the Electric Nation trial had demonstrated not only the financial benefits of V2G but also consumers’ willingness to embrace the concept. “Proof of this is that over half of the participants have chosen to keep their chargers,” he said.

One motivation might be to buy your own chargers that cost £5,500 each, or around £4,500 more than a conventional charger.

In its report on the 2021 OZEV trial, the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets predicted mass production of V2G chargers would enable prices to fall to around £1000 and believed the payback period could “comfortably be below five years”.

Looking to the future, Potter said that expansion of V2G would, by helping to balance the grid and encourage greater use of cheaper, renewable energy, lead to lower energy prices but, by extension, lower V2G energy resale prices too. “To compensate them, energy companies might pay customers an infrastructure payment for storing electricity,” he added.

Critics of V2G say users can already benefit from lower tariffs by investing in a new generation of smart chargers that connect to the cheapest tariff charges as soon as they become available, rather than at set times.

Iain Walker, commercial director of Ohme, supplier of the Home Pro intelligent charger that promises a potential £1000 reduction in electricity costs, said: “The Home Pro already helps to balance demand by integrating with the grid in real time, which is smarter, cheaper and easier for drivers than V2G in its current form.”

Renewable energy provider Octopus Energy said the combination of V2G and smart charging could promote a more balanced power supply and lower electricity prices. Regarding V2G, a dual export tariff of 15 pence per kWh during evening peak and peak hours and 5 pence per kWh during the rest of the day is being tested. Customers will receive a credit line on their bill, which may reduce the total amount due.

Claire Miller, director of technology and innovation at Octopus Electric Vehicles, an electric vehicle specialist at Octopus Energy Group, said some customers were saving £36 a month with V2G, while others were saving £36 a year with V2G and smart charging £177.

“V2G can help deliver real savings,” she said. “We’re watching its development carefully and encouraged to see that some manufacturers are considering installing the necessary inverter technology on their new cars that would simplify the V2G wall charger and make it less expensive.”

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