Vehicle-to-grid tech tipped as fleet cash cow
09 February 2018
Author: Jack Carfrae
Vehicle-to-grid technology could transform fleet business models to generate profit from electric vehicles. The concept involves selling surplus energy from vehicle batteries back to the grid at peak times, in tandem with overnight charging to exploit lower energy costs.
Speaking to BusinessCar, Alex Baker, CEO of Fleet Innovations, said organisations with a back-to-base operation, such as delivery companies or pool car fleets, could benefit from the model. "Vehicle-to-grid means that you can put energy into a vehicle, as well as take energy out," he says. "If you can take energy out of a vehicle, you've got a great big battery there and that energy can be used by you, as an organisation, to power your own requirements, or it could also be used to sell back to the grid.
"Think of a company like Royal Mail. They are predominantly doing most of their work during the morning and early afternoon, so they've got the capability to park all their vehicles up at, say, four o'clock in the afternoon. The National Grid wants some energy; Royal Mail sells the remaining energy in its vehicles to the National Grid for two or three hours. Then, between, say, eight o'clock at night and four in the morning, you put energy back into those vehicles, and away you go."
Baker, whose firm specialises in establishing whether or not fleets can feasibly operate plug-in vehicles, said the model would require modern, high-power charging points, a suitable local infrastructure and collaboration with energy suppliers.
"The technology that exists today is very new, so the charge points are quite a bit bigger and much more high-powered. They tend to be fast chargers - 20 to 50kW instead of the normal 7kW you put on the side of your house - so there would need to be work done with a charge point manufacturer," he says.
He stipulates that fleets would be required to install a particular type of charging point in order to participate in his company's proposed service, but did not name the manufacturer due to commercial sensitivities.
"You'd need to check that your local infrastructure was capable of taking the capacity, and there would need to be contracts set up to sell that energy back to the grid, but that's not as difficult as it sounds," he adds.
The company is working with an energy firm and a charging-point specialist to establish a formal vehicle-to-grid offering. It has yet to prove the concept in practice, but is appealing to suitable fleets to take part in practical analyses. "We're looking for fleets between 100 and 300 vehicles. That's our kind of sweet spot at the moment - organisations that are looking at electric vehicles and would be open to things like vehicle-to-grid," Baker says.
"We'll go higher than 300, but we won't go lower than 100. At the moment, this is a proof of concept for us. What we're trying to do is prove firstly, does the fleet need electric vehicles? And secondly, would vehicle-to-grid work? We're not specifying that it needs to be a certain type of vehicle."
Although the fundamental components of the technology exist, the process is still in development. However, if successful, it could be rolled out on a large scale.
"A lot of this is actually trying to learn what is the absolute sweet spot? What makes up the ideal kind of customer?" Baker says. "It's trying to build up a process and a kind of criteria where we know this works. Once we've done that, we can learn from it and start to roll it out en masse within the UK and other countries.
"The National Grid runs at about 14% capacity during the night, and when it's peak time, it's in the high 80s or more, so there could be an entire business model for certain industries and organisations, where they are literally just trickling power into the vehicles all night, using them most of the day, then chucking power back into the grid at peak times and being able to turn their fleet into a power station. Get it right, and it's potentially huge."
Fleets interested in taking part in a vehicle-to-grid trial with Fleet Innovations should call 084 5600 6880 or email email@example.com.