GM and PG&E join forces to turn EVs into a backup power source

The project will also support California’s power grid.
Can Emir
An electric vehicle being charged.Canetti/iStock

Today, Pacific Gas and Electric Company and General Motors announced that as a part of a pilot project, GM electric vehicles will be used as an on-demand power source for houses in PG&E’s service area during blackouts, in a press release.

California aims to reduce greenhouse emissions and EVs play a critical role in that plan.

The pilot’s first vehicle-to-home capable EV and charger are expected to go under testing by this summer. 

The vehicles that have GM's cutting-edge bidirectional charging technology will be tested in the pilot program to safely help to power a properly equipped house’s essential needs. 

When an EV owner plugs their car into a charger at home using bidirectional charging technology, electricity flow out of the EVs battery to power homes, instead of flowing into the car’s battery. This concept, called “vehicle-to-grid,” makes EVs an extension of the power grid itself.

Bidirectional charging capabilities are expected to add even further value by improving the electric resiliency and reliability of California’s electric grid system.

PG&E Corporation CEO Patti Poppe said, “We are really excited about this innovative collaboration with GM. Imagine a future where everyone is driving an electric vehicle — and where that EV serves as a backup power option at home and more broadly as a resource for the grid. Not only is this a huge advancement for electric reliability and climate resiliency, but it’s also yet another advantage of clean-powered EVs, which are so important in our collective battle against climate change”.

The pilot will include the use of bidirectional hardware coupled with software-defined communications protocols that will enable power to flow from a charged EV into a home, automatically coordinating between the EV, home, and PG&E’s electric supply using multiple GM EVs.

Upon lab testing, PG&E and GM plan to test vehicle-to-home interconnection allowing a small subset of customers’ homes to safely receive power from the EV when the power stops flowing from the electric grid. Through this pilot testing, PG&E and GM aim to develop a user-friendly vehicle-to-home service with this new technology. Teams from both sides are working to scale the pilot with the goal of launching larger trials by the end of the year.

GM is targeting more than 1 million EV capacity in North America to respond to the growing demand for EVs. “GM’s collaboration with PG&E further expands our electrification strategy, demonstrating our EVs as reliable mobile sources of power. Our teams are working to rapidly scale this pilot and bring bidirectional charging technology to our customers,” said GM Chair and CEO Mary Barra.

Power outages in Texas

The unprecedented cold temperatures the Winter storm Uri ushered knocked out around a third of Texas's electricity generating capacity, resulting in the largest forced blackout in the history of the U.S. Last February almost 3 million Texans were stranded without power, including a quarter of all homes in Dallas, and 1.4 million homes in the Houston metropolitan area. 

The state of California seems to have learned a lesson or two from this historic event.

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