V2G Charging Project Taps Parked School Buses
A bidirectional charging hub turns electric buses into mobile batteries, enhancing peak demand response for British Columbia’s main utility.
A vehicle-to-grid (V2G) pilot project in British Columbia aims to demonstrate the feasibility of bidirectional charging between the BC Hydro power grid and the growing share of medium- and heavy-duty EVs on the roads. An electric bus fleet owned by Coast to Coast Experiences, a tourism and bus line company, will supply the grid with stored energy from parked electric buses, supporting the utility’s peaking capacity and demand response functions.
A Lion Electric school bus charges up as part of a new vehicle-to-grid pilot program in British Columbia. Image used courtesy of Fermata Energy
The project uses bidirectional charging technology from Virginia-based Fermata Energy, whose artificial intelligence-optimized platform calculates the best times to charge and discharge. With buses serving as mobile batteries when they aren’t in use, the discharge of stored energy is redirected to the grid for peak energy demand purposes. Fleet operators resell the surplus power to the utility, offsetting peaking capacity when needed.
The pilot has been commissioned and will operate through late 2023, laying the groundwork for more distributed V2G charging hubs in Canada. The trial will serve buses and heavy-duty vehicles like transport trucks, which can be mobilized faster than conventional diesel-based backup generators while also being an alternative to reduce emissions.
V2X Bidirectional Charging: Turning Fleets into Mobile Battery Storage
Vehicle-to-X (V2X) is a relatively new subset of EV charging, where the “X” represents the technology’s adaptability to many applications. V2X has compelling use cases for utility-interconnected distributed energy resources (DERs), including vehicle-to-building (V2B) and vehicle-to-home (V2H) charging. Conventional uni-directional charging systems only send power one way, but bidirectional designs introduce the capability to redirect energy from the vehicle to the grid and other equipment.
Bus and truck fleets are arguably the best use case for V2G, as operators aim to achieve ambitious electrification goals over the next decade. With more fleets going electric, an opportunity to use their batteries for backup power arises.
Growth of electric school buses. Image used courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy
High-power batteries provide significant backup capacity potential. Medium- and heavy-duty batteries range from 150 kWh to over 600 kWh, and fleets use DC fast-charging infrastructure with capacities of 60 kW up to 500 kW.
The British Columbia bidirectional pilot is the first project of its kind in Canada. With over 100,000 registered light-duty EVs in British Columbia at the end of 2022, the number of EVs has increased by over 1,900% in the last six years. BC Hydro stated that if 1,000 of British Columbia’s buses on the roads were converted to electric, they could power 24,000 homes for two hours.
Other countries are catching on, too. Several V2G pilots are underway in the United States, tapping into the more than 3.4 million battery EVs (BEVs) and plug-in hybrids registered nationwide as of 2022. The Smart Electric Power Alliance reports that, with 60 kWh of average storage capacity among light-duty BEVs, 2.1 million vehicles represent 126 GWh of untapped power. That’s roughly five times the stationary battery storage currently on the grid or 25 GWh in 2023.
V2G Pilot Demonstrates Feasibility of Bidirectional Charging Hub
The British Columbia pilot project is a useful example of V2G’s basic value proposition. It lets Coast to Coast Experiences’ bus fleet serve as mobile mini-power plants while remaining idle for several hours daily. The excess power will then go to BC Hydro, a government-owned electricity provider covering 95% of British Columbia’s population. It can provide backup power in peak demand events, such as natural disasters and severe storms, serving critical peak shaving and grid resilience functions.
The project’s all-electric Lion buses have V2G smart bidirectional charging technology. BC Hydro tested a 60 kW charger connected to a Lion C electric school bus. The utility also mentioned that a 66 kW charge from the bus battery is enough to power two dozen single-family electrically heated homes for nearly two hours. Lion C models total up to 210 kWh of battery capacity.
The project will demonstrate bidirectional charging with the Combined Charging Standard (CCS1), widely used in North America and Europe. Previously, only EVs compatible with the CHAdeMO charging port standard could allow bidirectional power flow. While most EVs are equipped with the CCS DC charge port, only a few are bidirectional, such as Lucid Air and Ford’s F-150 Lightning.
Still, more EV manufacturers are supporting bidirectional charging with CCS ports. Volkswagen plans to add the feature in all new models of its ID family, with an 88 kWh battery supporting V2H functions. The move makes Volkswagen one of the first bidirectional charging providers based on the CCS DC charging standard.
Fermata’s V2X Platform
Fermata Energy’s cloud-based directional charging platform is integrated with Lion Electric’s buses and BorgWarner’s V2G charging hardware. This combination lets the bus operator use Fermata’s AI algorithms to identify when and where power is needed most, redirecting unused supply back to the grid.
Video used courtesy of Fermata Energy
Fermata claims the cost of its bidirectional DC fast chargers is comparable to one-way chargers. One EV paired with the V2G bidirectional charger pays for itself in three years. It works with several carmakers and utilities, including a recent partnership with Toyota and Southern California’s San Diego Gas and Electric Company to research BEV V2G bidirectional power flow technology.
At the recent Climate Week conference in New York, Fermata demonstrated its V2G system for commercial property uses. Leveraging the Verizon 5G and ChargePoint networks, power from a solar-charged Nissan LEAF was discharged and sent back to the event building to resupply its energy demands. During the Climate Week event, demand jumped by 20% to 193 kW, and the platform helped manage this peak by discharging the system. Solar energy stored in the battery reduced the demand peak by 14.6 kW, which amounts to hundreds of dollars in savings.
Fermata’s V2G bidirectional charging software. Image used courtesy of Fermata Energy
UL Solutions recently issued its first V2G-compliant EV charging system certification to Fermata Energy, laying the foundation to expand its technology further. The company secured the UL 9741 standard for bidirectional EV charging system equipment and UL 1741 SA for utility-interconnected inverters, controllers, converters, and other equipment for use with DERs.