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Electric car charging - the latest home charging innovations

Opt for one of the latest innovations in electric car home charging and you could get your energy for free...

EV charger

Since July 2019, the EVHS grant has been available only to buyers of smart chargers, which enable you to use a smartphone app to choose when the car is charged up or have the batteries topped up by a certain time. The advantage these have over basic chargers is that you can choose to use electricity when it is cheaper, usually in the middle of the night, rather than simply plugging the car in and recharging it when you get home from work. 

In fact, this is only the beginning of a new era for home charging; a whole new breed of even smarter charging points is on the way. Around the world, vehicle-to-grid (V2G) and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) chargers are being trialled. Their aim is twofold: to help EV owners charge up for less and to manage demand for energy by selling electricity back to the grid when it’s needed. 

They also have the advantage of being cheaper and simpler to install than alternative home energy storage methods such as the large battery banks offered by the likes of Nissan and Tesla

The National Grid predicts that there will be as many as 11 million EVs on British roads by 2030 and 36 million by 2040. It says V2G chargers will provide a useful level of support from 2030; even if V2G supplies only 2% of our electricity by then, that equates to 220,000 cars using it, collectively supplying up to two gigawatts of power at peak times – enough to power around two million homes for an hour. 

Nissan Leaf Octopus charger

“V2G charging systems are among a range of new home charging technologies being developed for consumers in the UK. As the number of EVs grows and the size and capabilities of batteries increase, there is a huge opportunity for them to be a significant electricity storage resource for a smart grid,” says Poppy Welch, head of Go Ultra Low, the joint government and industry organisation that provides motorists with information about EVs. 

There are 20 new V2G initiatives being funded through a competition held by Innovate UK, backed by a £30 million government award. According to Go Ultra Low, this has made the UK a world leader in V2G technology. 

Octopus Energy charging package

In June 2019, energy provider Octopus Energy launched a car leasing and energy package that comes with a V2G charger. Under the scheme, called Powerloop, customers lease a car – currently restricted to a 40kWh Nissan Leaf – from the company for two or three years. They are given a vehicle-to-grid charger and a £30 refund on the monthly lease fee for every month in which they charge their car up overnight at least 12 times.  Assuming this refund is granted every month, the resultant annual saving of £360 is said to equate to recharging the Leaf’s batteries enough to complete 10,000 miles.

“There’s a huge amount of energy locked up in electric cars,” says Octopus. “Just 10 Leafs could power 1000 homes for an hour. V2G gives us the ability to store and release renewable energy whenever we need it.”

Nissan Leaf home charging

Ovo Energy charging trial

Another energy provider, Ovo Energy, is running a trial that it says will result in the creation of the largest and most well-established V2G fleet in the world. 

It started just over two years ago and involves around 1000 Nissan Leaf and e-NV200 van owners, using V2G chargers and a web app to set the time at which they want their car to be charged up. 

The app decides when to charge the batteries and when to export power to the grid. Ovo says if owners leave their cars plugged in regularly, they shouldn’t have to pay to charge them up. 

The company has already seen interesting trends among the EV owners who have signed up, with users having a significantly higher level of engagement with V2G than with other forms of EV charging. 

“Customers plug their cars in every day, as opposed to twice a week,” says Ovo. “They also plug in for longer, because they understand the value of doing so and are more engaged with the technology than those using standard EV chargers. 

“V2G is a real game-changer as we transition to an intelligent, zero-carbon grid. Not only can it enable intelligent charging of electric cars so that energy is used at cheaper and greener times of the day, but it also offers a bidirectional flow that effectively turns individual households into mini green power stations.”

Nissan Leaf and V2G charging system

Not all current EVs can make use of V2G chargers; to be compatible, they must provide a bidirectional power flow that allows energy back out of the car’s batteries. V2G-compatible EVs are equipped with ‘Chademo’ charging ports and include models from Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota. However, other brands are researching the potential of V2G, and it’s likely to be available in more cars soon.

In November 2019, BMW announced that it is leading a Bidirectional Charging Management consortium research project in Germany, developing bidirectional wallboxes and car charging systems. It is soon to start a one-year pilot programme with 50 private and fleet customers driving BMW i3s to test the hardware. 

Fiat has started to build its own V2G charging station at its Mirafiori factory in Italy. It will initially have 32 charging columns, capable of connecting up 64 vehicles, and by next July the aim is to have charge points for 700 vehicles, making it the world’s largest V2G facility. 

Meanwhile, Tesla is reported to have started installing bidirectional charging technology into the Model 3 executive saloon – despite claiming previously that V2G wasn’t viable due to battery degradation. So, it’s clear that many in the motor industry and the environmental sector believe V2G has big potential. 

While this technology is still in its infancy, EV owners with a compatible car can take advantage of it already and charge their car’s battery virtually for free. Many of the regional V2G pilot schemes we’ve heard about will install their charging systems for free and let trial participants keep them at the end of the scheme. 

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