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EV gives back to the grid

By Karli Vezina

Do you have an electric vehicle? Are you maybe thinking about making the switch? A new advancement in electric battery charging could be the last selling point you’ll ever need to hear.

Emerging technology called "bidirectional charging” is one of the latest innovations that could ease the pressure on our power grids by storing energy and giving it back when needed.

Bidirectional charging allows the vehicle to take energy from the grid to charge its battery and also give it back by discharging power out of the car battery and into a building or power grid.

It’s an impressive concept and Nova Scotia Power is leading the way with their pilot program to see how electric vehicles could lend support to our power grids.

Currently there are only two kinds of electric consumer models capable of bidirectional charging: The Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi Outlander but this will soon change. Ford Motor Co. recently announced their electric F-150 Lightning pickup truck that will have bidirectional charging and same goes for the future of all Volkswagen’s electric vehicles. Nova Scotia Power’s vice-president of commercial, David Landrigan, told the CBC "I actually can't see any electric vehicle not allowing bidirectional charging in the future, just because of the amount of value it brings.”

Sending power from a vehicle to a building or to a power grid sounds awesome but it could also save lives. With climate change rolling ahead at full tilt, a tool that stores energy for when needed is priceless. Linda Zhang, Ford’s chief engineer said in the unveiling of the F-150 Lightning, that it’s like “your own personal power plant, automatically powering your house for three days during an outage.”

One of the major roadblocks in getting this technology out to the public is a lack of bidirectional chargers. Some of the chargers being used in the Nova Scotia Power project have not yet been certified for general use in Canada. Landrigan said they’re not quite ready for the public market but they are working on it. Another setback is the current state of electric car batteries. Recent studies from the National Research Council of Canada found that charging and discharging the Nissan Leaf reduced the lifespan of the battery from 10 years down to six, so there is still work to be done. With further improvements to battery technology, more chargers and more incentives for drivers, this could really take off.


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