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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