Despite growing interest in electric vehicles (EVs), their hefty price tag continues to deter buyers.
However, an emerging charging technology could make these low-emissions vehicles far more economically appealing.
Bi-directional charging, also known as vehicle-to-grid (V2G) or vehicle-to-home (V2H) charging, allows electric vehicle owners to use their car to power their home.
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This technology essentially allows the electrical current to flow in both directions, which will mean a car can also supply power back to the grid, or power a home, using energy from the EV battery.
As a spokesperson from RACV explains, this could see the home become “the green petrol station of the future”.
Basically, the thinking is that your car could double as a home battery as well as a set of wheels.
If you charge the car from a free or cheap source, such as rooftop solar, a free charger at your local shopping centre, or at work, you can use your car’s battery to power your home cheaply.
That’s one of the reasons Jet Charge CEO Tim Washington believes EVs have a good chance of displacing stationary home batteries entirely.
“If you’re in the market for a car, whether it be a new one or a secondhand one, the fact that it can double up as a battery is an economic case enough for you to get one,” Washington says.
But hold on - what happens when I’m not home?
Most cars sit unused in the garage, on the street, or at work the majority of the time.
In fact, most people only drive around 36 kilometres a day, leaving plenty of charge in a 300-kilometre-range EV to use as a home battery.
Plus, as Washington points out, chances are, when you are home using energy, your car is too.
On those occasions when the car is not there, you can still draw on grid electricity (unless you are completely off-grid).
So when can I get one?
At the moment, not all electric vehicles are capable of bi-directional charging, according to the spokesperson from RACV.
Only a couple of models, such as the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi Plug-in Hybrid, have this capability.
"That will change as the technology matures and newer EV models enter the market," the RACV spokesperson said.
The high price of bidirectional charges is another barrier. At around $10,000, they don’t come cheap, but Washington said they would drop in price quickly.
The other factor to consider is how bi-directional charging will affect the battery life.
Moving electricity back and forth would add to overall usage, Washington explained, however, he said EV batteries had such long lifespans now that the impact would be “negligible”.
Get paid to help support a decarbonising grid
Another way you’ll be able to monetise your car in the future will be to sell electricity back to the grid.
Dr Bjorn Sturmberg, a research leader in the Battery Storage and Grid Integration Program at ANU, said EV owners may be able to get rewarded for assisting the grid through times of peak demand.
Basically, when there's strong demand for energy - say, it’s a hot day and everyone is blasting their air conditioners - your energy provider may reward you to access the electricity stored in your vehicle’s battery so there’s enough to go around.
Consumers are already being offered incentives to allow the grid to access their household batteries, and EVs are likely to be treated in the same way.