A Ford Mustang EV sits plugged in at a city charging station.

What is Bidirectional Charging?

There is a lot more to electric vehicles than you might expect. While EVs are certainly a vital part of reducing the world’s carbon emissions, they’re also an opportunity to make a more versatile, flexible power grid with bidirectional charging. Imagine a utility grid that moves with us, adding power when not in use and then helping to propel us wherever we need to go.

That’s the goal of cities around the world, but one is closest to making it a reality.

Utrecht, a famously bike-friendly city in a famously bike-crazy country is committing to become the world’s first bidirectional city.

Bidirectional charging combines large utility-scale batteries and EV batteries to contribute power when renewables aren’t available. When weather conditions cause the supply of solar or wind power to dip, a bidirectional city can draw on power from those lithium-ion batteries and the individual EV batteries that are parked and plugged into the grid.

Renewable Energy and Energy Storage on the Move

As popular as renewable energy technology is becoming, much of its success depends on the availability of energy storage. Storage on that scale is coming in the US, but even at a five-fold growth rate by 2050, many communities may not have the capacity to confidently switch to primarily renewable energy.

That could be supplemented by the growth in EV sales. In 2018, there were approximately 1 million full-electric vehicles on the roads. By 2030, that number is expected to reach 18.7 million, making up just over 7% of the total non-commercial cars on the road.

Together, utility-scale storage and EVs with bidirectional charging could very well support a fully renewable energy grid in the United States by 2050.

EVs Are Trying to Catch Up

The plan does face one big speedbump. Most EVs on the market aren’t capable of bidirectional charging and, unless things change, this type of energy sharing won’t become a reality until the next generation of EVs add the technology. The functionality is on the radar of automotive manufacturers, and there are some brands, like Hyundai, that will have models with bidirectional capabilities on the market as soon as next year.

One of the biggest and most influential brands on the planet, Volkwagen, has confirmed plans to add bidirectional charging to its MEB charging platform. One of its brand divisions, Audi, is also looking to expand its offerings in Vehicle to Grid charging (V2G).

Other opportunities include electric fleet vehicles, a space currently being established by newly-public and Amazon-backed Rivian.

Making a Bidirectional City

Utrecht is on the way. The city is home to a research project that is using 250 bidirectional charging stations to power a nearby office building. The project has support from the local government and business, and it has added additional charging points at strategic locations throughout the city.

It’s worth noting that the Netherlands, and cities like Utrecht in particular, are ideal locations for bidirectional energy sharing. The most useful vehicle in this system is a stationary one, and since most residents take advantage of the city’s massive network of bike lanes, that leaves plenty of plugged-in EVs to help share the energy burden.

Bidirectional Charging is One Piece of the Puzzle

As is the case in nearly everything sustainable, there is no one single answer to the world’s climate problems. Instead, we’ll rely on a patchwork of ideas and continued innovation to reduce carbon emissions and end fossil fuel use.

How will your business play a role? To learn more about how Keen Technical Solutions can help your company meet its sustainability commitments, contact us today.