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Ford F-150 Lightning and Other EVs: What They Could Give (Part 2)

First Bi-Directional EV Charger in Durango, CO, at 9R School District’s Bus Barn

Part 1 discussed what is required to use the home backup feature sold as an option for the upcoming Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck. While researching that article, I spoke with Dominic May, the Energy Resource Program Architect at the rural electric cooperative (co-op) serving my community in the southwest corner of Colorado, La Plata Electric Association (LPEA).

His answer to the F-150 Lightning question was pretty simple; you can read about it in Part 1 of this post. What was more interesting were the incentives LPEA may make available for all their EV-owning customers. LPEA is now gaining experience with their first-in-the-state electric school bus as a Vehicle to Grid (V2G) source of peak-hour energy. Now they’re turning their attention to possible V2G incentives for all their EV-owning customers.

That’s the dream of V2G, that we can multi-purpose this big fleet of batteries out there in our service area.

Dominic May, the Energy Resource Program Architect

What is V2G again?

V2G uses a specific kind of charger, a bi-directional charger. It allows the grid to fill your car’s battery with electricity. It also allows, at pre-set times of the day, the grid to pull electricity out of your car’s battery. Under a V2G program, the electric company doesn’t just provide electricity to you. You also provide electricity back to them at the specific times when it saves them the most money: during peak energy use hours of the day.

Dominic May, with LPEA’s first V2G School Bus sending electricity back to the grid.

How does the little bit of energy my EV can provide save an electric company enough money to make V2G worth it to them or me?

In southwest Colorado, the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association owns and maintains the large power plants and transmission lines that bring electricity to all the area electric co-ops. Tri-State charges LPEA a monthly demand charge of $20 per kW of peak demand. That means every month, Tri-State looks at the one hour of highest demand from the LPEA service area and charges $20 for all the kilowatt hours delivered during that hour. If LPEA as a whole uses 100,000 kW during its highest hour in a month, Tri-State charges them $2,000,000 for that month’s demand charge. That is addition to the price LPEA pays at lesser rates for electricity supplied during all the non-peak hours.

LPEA is a winter peaking, evening peaking utility. It’s pretty much never fully dark until 5 PM, even in the depth of winter. Our peaks usually happen between 6 and 7 PM. It’s about an hour after dark, everything’s gotten quite cold and all the heat is coming on, everybody’s home, dinner starts getting cooked, et cetera. All the devices in the house come on.

Dominic May, the Energy Resource Program Architect

If your 80 kWh battery EV rolls into the garage at 5:30 PM with 60 kWh left in the battery and plugs into a V2G charger, it could supply 40 kW to the grid between 6 and 7 PM to allow having 20 kWh left in the battery in case of a night emergency. (Most EVs on the road today could get 60 – 80 miles on 20 kWh.)

Happy people help each other out!

The EV could then easily regain the 40 kW it sent out by more slowly pulling it in overnight, when electricity rates are lowest. While you ate dinner, relaxed at home and then slept, you helped save your electricity provider 40 kWh x $20/hr = $800. Since electric co-op members include all your neighbors and everyone in their service area, you’ve helped everyone in your community save money. Your electric co-op or company will want to find a way to make that worth your while.

LPEA recognizes people participating in a future V2G program would need to expend some money to be able to take part. Bi-directional chargers are significantly more expensive than your basic Level 2 home charger. EVs are still more expensive than comparable petroleum-fueled cars.

LPEA is working on creating a battery storage program for customers with home back-up batteries, like Tesla Powerwalls or LG batteries. We hope to learn from that and extend the same incentives to customers who want to participate in a V2G program. The V2G program will need to include an aspect controlling the time the customer is willing to participate, and how much of their battery capacity they are willing to contribute each day.

We want to pass as much of that back to the customer as we can. We’re considering upfront rebates for V2G equipment purchased and annual credits based on energy sent back to the grid, things like that.

Right now, we have the small demand charge of $1.50 per kW we pass through to non-time-of-use rate members, but that’s obviously not reflective of the $20 the whole membership pays. Equity is a big consideration for LPEA. We will need to balance the price signals we offer to the V2G participating members so we don’t punish lower- and fixed-income members with electrified homes.

Dominic May, the Energy Resource Program Architect

If you live in LPEA’s service area, keep an eye out for upcoming battery storage programs offerings. If not, contact your local electricity provider and ask them if they have any plans to implement a home battery storage or Vehicle-to-Grid incentive program in their service area. Let them know you’d be interested in participating.

People served by rural electrical co-ops can have a strong influence on the board members of those organizations. Encouraging them to look into these types of programs may be just the push they need. Investor-owned utilities also might be influenced by their customer’s interest in taking part in V2G programs. If you are served by an investor-owned utility, such as Xcel Energy (CO), PNM (NM) or Rocky Mountain Power (UT), check their website or give them a call to find out what their plans are.   The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) is unique as the largest multi-utility enterprise owned and operated by an American Indian tribe. If you live in their service area, give them a call to find out if they are investigating how they can use distributed battery storage resources to bolster their electricity distribution system.

When a V2G or home battery program might become available in your neighborhood: Two caveats

  • Most EVs currently on the market and on the roads don’t have the internal hardware that would enable them to participate in V2G programs, even if they do install a bi-directional charger at their home. While V2G programs are currently operating in Europe with EVs capable to participate, car manufacturers have not provided US models with that functionality yet.            
  • Administrative hurdles remain to be solved before LPEA can actually implement a V2G program. Tri-State policies may need to modified so both Tri-State and the co-ops it serves can use customer-owned batteries to their full potential.
Finally, if you are unclear about what peak demand is, why it costs so much, and why we should all be doing what we can to reduce it, I recommend reading this article by David Roberts on Canary Media. Rooftop Solar and Home Batteries Make a Clean Grid Vastly More Affordable.

Finally, here’s a nice short video to sum up V2G from Nuvve.

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Ford F-150 Lightning as Home Backup Generator: The Lowdown on What It Takes (Part 1) and What It Could Give (Part 2)

Word on the internet has it that Ford will open their ordering process for the F-150 Lightning this Thursday, January 6, 2022. It seems a good time to do a deeper dive on Ford’s home backup power option available for their much-awaited electric pickup truck.

Image from Ford

This is Part 1 of a two-part post. Part 1 discusses the specifics how much this option will cost, how it will work, and can it live up to Ford’s promises.

Part 2 will discuss other things you can do with a big electric truck’s battery, to both help your community and save some money for yourself. It’s called Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) and it could be coming to your neighborhood sooner than you think.

Here’s the home backup promise on Ford’s website:

In Part 1, each part of this promise will be discussed. In Part 2, we’ll learn how one SW Colorado rural electrical co-op plans to work with customers wanting to use the back-up power feature to provide benefits not just to EV owners, but to all co-op customers.

The Three Things You Need to Use the Ford F-150 Lightning as Backup Power For Your Home

Extended Range Battery

The backup power option is not available for all F-150 Lightning models. In particular, it will not be available on their lowest priced PRO model, which has a base price of $40,000. To take advantage of the backup power option, you must purchase an extended range battery model, the lowest cost of which appears to be the $74,000 XLT.

80-amp Ford Charge Station Pro

Ford’s website indicates the 80-amp Ford Charge Station Pro comes standard with extended range battery models. The Charge Station Pro is an extra piece of equipment which will allow your F-150 Lightning to both draw electricity FROM the power lines feeding your house to fill up the truck’s battery AND allow it SEND electricity INTO your house when those power lines are down. It is what’s known as a bi-directional charger. It allows peak charging power of 19.2 kW, much higher than the typical 7 kW a home Level 2 charger provides.

The 32-amp mobile charger which comes with all the F-150 Lightning models will also be included. This charger sends electricity in just one direction: from a power outlet to the truck’s battery. The charger is delivered, coiled neatly in a canvas travel case, as an electrical cord with a charge plug on one end. At the other end there is a choice of two adapters, one you can use to plug into a regular 120V outlet and another you can plug into a 240V outlet.

Good for emergencies away from home, too.

You can use the 32-amp charger wherever there is an outlet, from a regular 120V outlet on a friend’s porch to an electrical hook-up at an RV campground, which delivers as much power as a Level 2 charger.

Carrying this mobile charger in the truck with you could come in handy if you wind up stuck on any road that has closed due to winter storm conditions (as recently happened in Virginia) or an accident. If you can get off the highway, you could plug into any wall outlet (120 V) and heat your vehicle without running down the battery until traffic was able to move again. If you have an F-150 and a full battery, other EVs could plug into your truck’s 120V outlets to run their heaters until traffic gets moving again.

Electrical work done at your house

To use the home backup feature, you will need to get a professional electrician to install the 80-amp Ford Charge Station Pro and an automatic transfer switch at your house. The transfer switch automatically disconnects your home from the grid when the power goes down. That is necessary so your F-150 does not feed battery power back out on the power lines at your house during a power outage, which could cause a severe hazard to power company workers working on the lines.

You will need an 80-amp circuit installed to serve the Charge Station Pro. This won’t be a problem for most homes, but some with older electrical systems may need to upgrade their service with their electric company to carry that many amps.

In May 2021, Ford announced they had partnered with a company called Sunrun to:

facilitate the installation of Ford’s charging stations and energy integration system for residential customers.

https://www.pv-tech.org/ford-selects-sunrun-as-installation-partner-to-make-new-f-150-lightning-backup-power-source/

At Sunrun’s website, they list all of the Four Corners states except Utah as states where they operate. I am not aware if Sunrun currently operates in the Four Corners area. Before your F-150 Lightning order goes to production, you’ll want to confirm what company, Sunrun or a solar contractor local to you, would be able to work with you to install the 80-amp Charge Station Pro and install a new, or modify an existing, home solar system.

Does your electric company get involved in any of this?

No. It is basically the same as if you were adding a new electric appliance to your home. You usually don’t have to notify your electric company to do that. However, the electrician who does the installation work at your house will check to be sure your current electrical panel and service can handle the amount of power the F-150 Lightning would both pull from and push into your home’s wiring. They will let you know if any upgrades need to be made, and if so, how much they will cost.

Can the F-150 Lightning really supply my home with electricity for up to 10 days?

Yes. Ford recently announced the F-150 Lightning extended range battery will have a capacity of 131 kilowatt hours. For comparison, a typical Tesla home battery used for home backup power holds about 13.5 kWh. However, remember any energy your home uses out of the truck’s battery will decrease the number of miles the truck will be able to drive before getting re-charged.

If your home has solar, you may be able to modify your electric service so the solar array could send charge into the F-150 Lightning’s battery during a power outage, along with powering your other household electric needs. Your solar array would need to be sized to provide enough power to cover both your home’s needs and have power to spare to supply the truck with extra energy to allow you to drive it around during the blackout, if needed.

When Will I Get My F-150 Lightning?

Ford received more than 200,000 reservations for the Lightning, which were made at a cost of $100 each. Starting in January 2022, they will begin sending invitations to the reservation holders to order at staggered times. If the system works as it did for the Mustang Mach e, it will cost $1,000 to place an order. Once the order is placed, it will likely take 6 months to a year before you actually get the truck. According to communication sent recently by Ford to reservation holders:

Now, this kind of demand means many of you won’t get a 2022 F‑150 Lightning™ truck, but rest assured we will hold your reservation so you’ll have a chance to order a future model year.

Ford communication to F-150 Lightning reservation holders

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post. I plan to get it published in a week or two.

Part 2 will discuss other things you can do with a big electric truck’s battery, to both help your community and save some money for yourself. It’s called Vehicle to Grid and it could be coming to your neighborhood sooner than you think.

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Do you have a few minutes for a UC Denver survey on EV charging and V2G?

The University of Colorado Denver is conducting research on how electric vehicles (EVs) can be fully integrated with power grids. We’d love to hear from you about how you may charge your EV. The results of this survey will inform our recommendations for public policies related to the Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) and Vehicle-to-Building (V2B) technologies. 

As a thank you for sharing your input, 10 completed survey respondents will each receive a $50 Amazon gift card. This survey only takes 8 – 13 minutes. The survey is closed on November 12, 2021. You must be 18 or older to participate.  

TAKE THE SURVEY: https://ucdenver.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_d0ZSdrrhCuwFgN0 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q: What questions do I expect to be asked?  

A: You will be asked where, when, and how you may charge your EV using a bidirectional EV charger, which allows EV users to not only charge the batteries of electric vehicles but to also take energy from cars. Bidirectional charging enables the vehicle-to-grid (V2G) or vehicle-to-building (V2B) capability, allowing EVs to inject energy into the grid or a building. 

Q: Who is conducting the study? 

A: The University of Colorado Denver is conducting research on how electric vehicles (EVs) can be fully integrated with power grids.  

Q: How will my answers be used? 

A: Only the aggregated results will be used to create an infographic of the findings, several short reports, and several presentations hosted by the University of Colorado Denver. 

Q: Who will see my responses? 

A: Privacy is of the utmost concern, and all respondents’ data will be anonymized and de-identified as the first step in the analysis. Only the Principal Investigators (Hilary Haskell and Serena Kim) holding current certification in human subjects research will have access to individual-level survey responses. Individual responses are not shared with any other individuals or groups. 

Q: Will any of my information be used for marketing purposes? 

A: No. This project is non-commercial — responding will not subject you to any marketing. 

Hilary Haskell, University of Colorado Denver 

Dr. Serena Kim, University of Colorado Denver 

If you have any questions about the survey, please email us: hilary.haskell@ucdenver.edu or serena.kim@ucdenver.edu 

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