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‘I cut my energy bills in half by using my electric car as a giant battery to store cheap power’

In a time when most people’s energy bills are soaring, Marie Hubbard’s have fallen by 50 percent, thanks to new technology that will soon be available to almost every electric vehicle driver.

Marie, a nurse who lives in Leicestershire, has been taking part in a trial of 100 EV owners. They have been experimenting with charging their car batteries when power is cheap, and storing that power to use in their home or to sell back to the grid during peak time.

Using her Nissan electric campervan to take advantages of the fluctuating price of power in this way has helped Marie cut her energy bills from £50 a month to £25. “Between October and May my bills halved,” shetold i.

Over the course of the five-month trial she also made £125 from selling power to the grid, she added, helped by the use of her rooftop solar panels, which allowed her to charge her car for free.

Marie was taking part in the Electric Nation vehicle-to-grid (V2G) project, which was set up to explore how V2G technology would work when it was put in the hands of real people.

Grid operators and renewables developers champion V2G technology because it can help the grid to maximize the use of renewables, by storing solar and wind energy in car batteries for use after dark, for example.

As part of the trial Marie was able to check when power was expensive and sell her electricity back to the grid (Photo: Richard Stonehouse/Electric Nation)

National Grid believes that if the conditions are right, almost half of EV drivers could be using the technology within 30 years, which could save billpayers money and remove the need for the grid to host costly power plants only needed to meet peak demand.

Marie said the trial was useful for cutting her energy bills but required “dedication” to turn a profit from the energy she sold.

“As a money-making scheme, it’s only going to be people that are really dedicated to it,” she said. “I think it’s an answer that we need in terms of supporting the grid, being able to balance the grid in terms of being able to accommodate more electric vehicles,” she said.

The UK has so far only hosted small V2G trials, but mass use of the technology is on the horizon.

Currently, only Nissan electric cars have the right technology to support the bi-directional charging needed to support V2G. But over the coming months, more V2G-enabled cars will hit the market, starting with VW which will start delivering its first V2G equipped EV models to the UK at the end of the year. Meanwhile, Hyundai is working on a V2G-enabled EV model.

Experts believe V2G technology will be standard on new EVs within a few years. “By 2025 we know that V2G technology will be more accessible in EV,” said Yiango Mavrocostanti, innovation manager at Western Power Distribution, one of the UK’s network operators and one of the trial’s organizers. “At that point it will be possible for V2G to really scale up and grow.”

Yet for V2G to be used nationwide, energy suppliers need to step forward with better tariffs to help people buy and sell energy more easily.

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Currently, too few suppliers are offering attractive import and export tariffs, said Mike Potter, chief executive of Crowdcharge, which offers smart charging services to EV owners.

“Renewable energy is quite volatile, so we need to find ways to help people make the best use of it,” he told i. “That’s why V2G is so important – it can help use a lot more renewable energy.”

“But that contract about how the energy is supplied needs to be much more sophisticated, and probably managed automatically for the customer,” he continued. “There’s very few suppliers that are being creative enough with this sort of thing.”

How does vehicle-to-grid technology work?

V2G technology allows electric vehicles to store energy in their batteries, and to discharge that energy back to the electricity network when it’s most needed, such as when most people are home from work and cooking their evening meal.

To work, a bi-directional charger will be needed to allow power to flow in both directions. Algorithms can control when a car is charging and discharging power when it is plugged in, with users setting to make sure their vehicle is fully charged when they need it – for example, in time for the morning commute.

Energy experts say V2G technology will help the grid to work more efficiently and increase the use of renewable power by helping the country to store wind and solar energy when it is cheap and plentiful for use later. There should be little harm to vehicles in the process – research by the University of Warwick suggests V2G could even boost the lifespan of a car battery.

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