Phase one of the bidirectional charging program is focused on connecting vehicles to homes.
Photo credit: Ford
Pacific Gas and Electric opened registration for the first phase of its vehicle-to-everything pilot program Tuesday to owners of the latest models of Ford’s electric F-150 Lightning.
PG&E first announced three new pilots aimed at studying bidirectional charging technology in 2022, offering monetary incentives ranging from $2,500 to nearly $9,000 to 1,000 residential customers, 200 business customers, and 200 microgrid customers.
While those pilots were separate from the utility’s broader bidirectional charging collaboration with Ford announced in March 2022, the automaker’s home integration system and all-electric truck are the first products approved for the vehicle-to-home phase of PG&E’s program. (PG&E also has a bidirectional charging collaboration with General Motors, which was also announced last year.)
In this phase, the utility is focused on providing backup power to homes for when the grid is down — as has happened with some regularity in Northern California in recent years, as PG&E strives to manage wildfire risk — as well as optimizing charge and discharge. The second phase is expected to launch in late 2024 and will zero in on vehicle-to-grid capabilities, PG&E said.
The announcement comes a week after Ford competitor Toyota announced a new bidirectional charging partnership with San Diego Gas & Electric, after committing to at least five of its 2024 EV models being equipped with vehicle-to-home charging.
It also follows the September announcement that Ford, BMW, and Honda teamed up to create ChargeScape, a co-owned company that will develop a bidirectional charging platform to enable utilities to access EV power during peak demand.
But despite this apparent coalescence around developing V2X technology, the bidirectional charging market is still far from being ready for mass commercialization.
According to the Smart Electric Power Alliance, the millions of electric vehicles currently on U.S. roads represent around 126 gigawatt hours in storage capacity — five times the amount of stationary battery storage on the grid today. Unfortunately, a very small proportion of today’s EVs have bidirectional capabilities, and bidirectional charging as an industry is still in its infancy.
But as the industry grapples with interconnection processes, standardization challenges, compensation mechanisms, and the high cost of hardware installation, automakers themselves are taking a key role in pushing the market towards maturity.
Residential installations of Ford’s Home Integration System (developed in collaboration with Sunrun, which also sells and installs the hardware), with the automaker’s Intelligent Backup Power software have been ongoing for over a year, the companies said, with dozens already installed in California.