In the event of a power outage, the electric car is more useful than you think

What if the electric car was more useful than you think in the event of a power outage? Behind this paradox, in fact, hides a two-way charging technology, which can really help in the event of a power failure.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne warned on 1 September 2022 that power cuts could occur this winter due to supply problems. California also faces this electricity shortage: the grid manager appeals to electric vehicle owners to use common sense when charging their car.

In this context, for critics of electric vehicles, the announcement of possible power cuts leaves people elated, imagining electric car drivers unable to get around. They see this as yet another argument, in their favor, for refusing to do without their thermal vehicle. However, as you can imagine, the reflection is biased.

For some models, it’s even the opposite. By having a two-way charging function, they can really help the house by powering it with the energy contained in its battery.

Without recharging, electric cars would be useless

Unless you drive 200, 300 or 400 km daily, it is difficult to understand the argument put forward by some. Not all electric vehicles are the same in terms of range. However, statistics show that the French average less than 50 km a day by car. At this rate, any electric car can last several days without drying out, even in winter.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 V2L charging socket. // Source: Raphaelle Baut for numerama

In addition to weather disasters that permanently damage the grid, cuts, load cuts and other restrictions that may be imposed on electrical energy will affect the day and periods of high voltage on the grid. The government often calls for a reduction in consumption, in the morning between 8 am and 12 pm, as well as in the evening for the peak of 6 pm. However, electric vehicle owners, who charge at home, mostly do so at night. A period that is therefore not really threatened by feed cuts.

In addition, speaking of occasional cuts in the supply of energy, it should not be forgotten that service stations also do not work without electricity, not to mention refineries that also consume a lot. Thermal vehicles also depend on electricity. If the range of diesel vehicles is important, that of petrol models is usually closer to what an equivalent electric car can achieve.

Bidirectional charging (V2G, V2X, V2L, etc.): what is it for in the event of a power failure?

Not all electric cars offer this. It is often even an additional option with the manufacturers in question. But bi-directional charging allows the energy stored in the car’s battery to be used to connect and power other equipment.

MG5-8
MG5 and its V2L socket. // Source: Raphaelle Baut for Numerama

The electric car is even being developed so that it can, in the near future, be an integral part of the national electricity grid. This is called V2G or vehicle to network. In the event of a voltage drop or interruption, the car battery connected to the home network automatically supplements the needs of the house. Then it recharges when the network returns to normal.

There are several different names with more or less similar functions:

  • V2X or vehicle for everything – from vehicle to multiple undefined sources,
  • V2H or vehicle to home – from vehicle to home,
  • V2B or vehicle to building – from vehicle to building,
  • V2L or vehicle-charging – from the vehicle to be recharged.

We still haven’t really been able to integrate the car into the electrical diagram of a house. The V2X or V2L is more commonly presented and used as a gadget for many purposes, such as being able to plug in: an electric bike, a plancha, a coffee machine, or a computer in the middle of nowhere. An anecdotal function, but which ends up being very practical in certain cases.

On Twitter, it’s a message from a Californian urologist who smiled on September 1. This clearly demonstrates the possible use of an electric vehicle to help in the event of a power outage. He was able to provide a service to his patient despite the power outage by plugging his equipment into his Rivian.

A little earlier in the year, we find the example of an Englishman who found himself without electricity after Eunice’s storm. He managed to connect various electrical devices in his house to his Hyundai Ioniq 5: the fridge, the coffee machine, the internet box and his computer, to continue working and living more or less normally. In any case, the time the current is restored.

Ford even made it a hub of communication when it launched its Ford Lightning. Interestingly, this feature could be a lot more useful than we think for years to come.

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