The UK's Ovo Energy has launched a suite of domestic energy products, including a vehicle-to-grid charger that's described as the "world's first widely available domestic bi-directional charger." The V2G charger gives EV drivers the flexibility to draw electricity from the grid when it's cheap and sell some back during peak demand hours. The company reckons that if users get the balance right, they could effectively drive their EVs for free.
"Renewable energy and electric vehicles are perfect partners for the 21st century," said Ovo's Stephen Fitzpatrick at yesterday's launch event in London. "Today we're launching the world's first widely available vehicle-to-grid charger, helping to solve one of the biggest challenges facing the energy sector.
"We're enabling thousands of EV batteries to help balance the grid in times of peak demand, more renewable energy to come onto the system, and households to reduce their electricity bills. This is the first step in building the distributed energy system of the future. One that is truly customer centric and built around households and their connected energy storage devices."
The Ovo bi-directional 6 kW vehicle-to-grid charger will allow users to sell surplus energy stored in an EV's batteries to grid operators during peak demand hours and draw from the grid back to the vehicle when electricity is cheaper or when renewables are feeding the grid instead of fossil fuels. And if it's done right, the company reckons that one could effectively cancel the other, meaning users could end up driving an EV without paying a penny.
It's reported to be the first V2G charger to be produced and deployed at volume in the UK, and can be mounted inside or out. The charger is due to be rolled out in the coming months as part of a 2 year trial for up to a thousand Nissan Leaf and e-NV2000 drivers, and will be supplied and installed for free to those taking part in the trial.
Ovo also took the wraps off a 7 kW Smart Charger designed to top up an EV's battery pack during off-peak hours, but can also pause charging if grid strain is detected. The Smart Charger is reported compatible with all electric vehicles, not just those made by Nissan, and pricing will be announced later in the year.
The green energy company appears to have Tesla on its radar too, with the announcement of a Home Energy Storage system designed to draw from the grid when electricity is cheap and discharge it to the house when it's needed. It can even feed surplus back to the grid during peak hours if not needed by the household. The unit sits on the floor rather than being mounted to a wall and can be installed either inside or out.
Capacity options range from 4.2 kWh to 10 kWh, and users will be able to choose units constructed using brand new or second use Nissan Li-ion cells. The Home Energy Storage system is being rolled out for free to existing Ovo customers as part of a trial later this year.
The above energy solutions run on a proprietary platform called VCharge, which "captures the value of flexibility present in all energy resources." VCharge brings together otherwise disjointed EVs, home battery systems and electric storage heaters to create a virtual power plant that's able to react to changes in demand and supply.
The intelligent platform will automatically adjust the flow of electricity to these plugged-in devices, ensuring users get power when it's needed but also working to keep supply cost down, while having the potential to ease supply pressure during peak times and help with grid balancing. The platform is already in operation in key areas throughout the UK, including the Scottish islands of Mull and Orkney, and by Newcastle City Council and the Glasgow Housing Association.
VCharge will also control a Wi-Fi-connected load switch called the Ovo Heat Dynamo, which can be retrofitted to electric storage heaters up to 20 years old to essentially give them modern tech smarts – allowing users to control the power supply to storage heaters via a companion mobile app. Ovo says that the cost of installation for a mid-sized home with five storage heaters would cash out at around £900, after which there would be no running costs and electricity savings could be as high as 30 percent.
The company already has over 1,000 Dynamos in customer homes, and is currently working on a new generation of electric storage heaters with VCharge tech included that should be ready for launch later in the year.
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