It won’t be long before bidirectional charging becomes the norm. A growing number of automakers are adopting the technology, with new and upcoming EVs from GM, Ford, Volvo, Hyundai and Mercedes boasting bidirectional capability. Even Tesla, long resistant to bidirectional charging, confirmed that its vehicles will be ready for it by 2025. The dominoes are starting to fall — and soon enough, every EV owner will be able to be able to use their vehicle not just as transportation but as a home battery that earns extra money by feeding power to the grid.
Closed-loop energy is what it’s called. By using your EV battery to store excess solar energy, it puts control in your hands: that energy is yours to use as you see fit. You can use it in emergencies when the lights go out, but you can also sell it back to the grid, earning money from kilowatts you aren’t using. “I think we can call it a game-changing resource,” David Landrigan, vice-president of commercial for Canadian utility Nova Scotia Power, told CBC News. More reliable energy for homeowners and grid operators alike: it’s a win-win.
That’s the big picture. But what about the details? How can homeowners actually take full advantage of bidirectional charging? As The New York Times noted in the midst of this summer’s wild weather, “such systems can be complicated, and some early adopters have encountered problems.” It’s one thing to have an EV capable of sending energy back to your home or the grid, and quite another for it to do so intelligently and efficiently.
But things are changing quickly. Home energy systems are only as good as the software that run them. Orchestrate OS is the brain behind the dcbel r16. It uses machine learning to automatically predict energy requirements, lower bills, reduce carbon emissions and detect issues before they happen. But what exactly does that mean on a day to day basis?
A week at home with dcbel
Meet the Smiths. They’re a family with two kids who have made the smart choice to lean into smart energy. They own an electric vehicle and a comfortable suburban home with rooftop solar panels, an LG Resu home battery and a dcbel r16 home energy system. Thanks to the r16, they’re able to automatically and proactively take advantage of their local utility’s net metering program, charging their EV when rates are lowest and sending power to the grid when it can earn them some money.
Here’s how that would work in practice. Monday is warm and rainy, the last day of a long weekend. Mr. and Mrs. Smith spend the whole day at home entertaining the kids, and they don’t notice that an Emergency Load Reduction Program (ELRP) came into effect until they are clearing the notifications on their phones before bed. But there’s no problem — their r16 automatically adjusted their EV charging to compensate, and opportunistically made them some cash.
When Tuesday dawns, it becomes clear why the local utility had triggered the ELRP the previous day: it’s hot. So hot it’s breaking records and homes across the state are blasting their air conditioners, taxing the grid until it finally gives in and the power goes out. Luckily, the r16 leverages the Smiths’ solar energy so that Mrs. Smith doesn’t miss her important client pitch on a video call.
Wednesday comes and it’s cloudy. The Smith parents are in the office today, where they can charge their EVs for free. When they come home early to cook a special dinner with their kids, the r16 takes advantage of those full batteries to discharge a bit of energy and make the family some money – but only after they are used to power the cookoff, thereby avoiding peak energy rates.
The next day, it’s even cloudier — downright gloomy — and it seems like a storm might be coming. With access to real time weather data, the r16 knew what was in the forecast and topped up the Smith’s batteries overnight, when prices were lowest.
The storm passes, clearing the skies without breaking the heat. It’s a beautiful summer Friday, so the Smiths decide to have a pool party after work. Luckily for them, it’s a zero cost and zero emission day: full batteries and abundant sunshine mean everything from the pool pumps to air conditioning is running without taking any energy from the grid.
When the Smiths wake up the next day, they find the weather has cooled off and they decide to go for a spontaneous excursion to a state park. They top up their EV with a quick power boost (a helpful r16 feature conceived to avoid range anxiety) and head out before lunch.
The Smiths wrap up their week at home. And they discover some good news when they check their phones: a new V2G program has launched in their area. They locate their provider in the dcbel App Hub, tap to enroll and begin to participate. They can opt out anytime.
Total energy cost for the full week? A few timely power export sessions allow the family to recoup all their costs and earn a total of $19.07.
The smart energy difference
There’s another family that lives not far from the Smiths. The Roberts also have two kids and a lovely house with rooftop solar, a hybrid solar inverter with storage, and a Level 2 charger for their EV. They’re also part of their local utility’s demand response program, but without the dcbel app to interface with it, they receive text messages alerting them to things like an ELRP. Like the Smiths, they don’t notice when the ELRP came into effect until late in the day, and by then, it’s too late: they missed this lucrative opportunity to adjust their charging schedule.
When the power goes out on Tuesday, their solar panels don’t work, so Mr. Roberts needs to go work in a coffee shop. When the family decides to have a pool party on Friday, they’re drawing extra energy from the grid, which is running near capacity on dirty energy from the wholesale market to prevent another blackout. When the Roberts decide to go to the state park on Saturday, their trip is delayed because they need to top up their EV. And on Sunday, as the Smiths effortlessly enroll in their area’s new V2G program, the Roberts are at a loss: without a bidirectional charger, they can’t participate.
The Roberts have just spent $48.30 for their energy that week. And along the way, they produced more carbon emissions, suffered from EV range anxiety and ran out of power when the grid failed.
This is all hypothetical, of course — in the real world, there are many variables that could affect what each family would pay for their energy. To keep things even, we based our estimates on an average daily energy consumption of 27 kWh and our rates on those offered by PG&E’s EV2-A program. It’s a rough sketch, but enough to give you an idea of the cost savings, efficiency and flexibility offered by the r16.
How to get there
So let’s say you’re like the Roberts and you want to become the Smiths. How do you do it? There are a few things you can do to prepare your home, whether you’re retrofitting an existing house or building something from scratch. After that, it’s dead simple. “Setup is pretty light,” says Sam Rudolph, dcbel’s Product Strategy Lead. Plug in your EV’s specs, set a baseline amount of charge for your EV’s battery and you’re good to go. “The experience is tailored to your unique location and weather, so you don’t have to do the heavy lifting of providing that information.”
Instead of manually configuring every last detail of your charging preferences (although you can do that if you want) you’ll only be prompted to set the general guidelines. “The system can provide ‘hands-off’ energy management, so you can set your parameters and it will charge your car in the best way possible, always trying to leverage solar first or the cheapest energy,” says Rudolph. “It’s completely hands-free because it uses AI to look forward to your energy needs in the future.” Most importantly, she adds, “you can set your power reserve, which is the amount of energy you want to keep in your car.” There’s no worry about inadvertently depleting your battery by sending energy to the grid.
With widespread bidirectional charging on the horizon, it’s that kind of proactive intelligence that will make the difference between having access to renewable energy and truly taking advantage of it. And with more and more EVs capable of bidirectional charging, it’s the key to being able to enjoy the benefits of a smart home energy system that saves money, reduces emissions and helps your community all at the same time.