Vehicle to grid – Audi joins a growing market

Auto manufacturers are playing a key role in driving the nascent vehicle to grid energy market.
Published: Thu 01 Feb 2018

First it was Tesla, then Daimler and Nissan, and now Audi has launched itself into the smart energy and vehicle to grid (V2G) space.

With V2G still nascent, initiatives such as these are important in advancing and gaining experience with the technology. As the numbers of electric vehicles grow, the need for management of charging will grow as will the potential for virtualising them into power plants and tapping that load back to the network.

With both likely to be very localised, the utility will be key in providing the necessary signals.

What isn’t clear at the present is the long term role the auto manufacturers intend to play.

From the consumer perspective, they will be relying on brand loyalty purchasing and the opportunity for buyers to obtain an integrated and potentially bundled solution.

In addition, such solutions offer them the opportunity to capitalise on both their new battery production and the second life of used batteries.  The competition also serves to put downward pressure on battery prices and improve their attractiveness to consumers.

But from the energy system perspective, whether the intent is to be the technology provider or become an aggregator remains to be seen.

Audi Smart Energy Network

Audi’s pilot, named the Audi Smart Energy Network, is running in homes in the Ingolstadt area in Germany where the company is headquartered and the Zurich region in Switzerland.

The project involves combining various sizes of photovoltaic systems with stationary storage batteries and interconnecting them to form a virtual power plant with which to provide balancing to the grid.

Zurich start-up Ampard is providing the control software, which distributes the PV power based on the current or projected demand from car, household and heating system.

“We are looking at electric mobility in the context of an overall energy supply system that is increasingly based on renewables,” says Dr Hagen Seifert, Head of Sustainable Product Concepts at Audi, in a statement.

According to the statement as part of its quest for emission-free premium mobility, Audi is also looking at services that extend beyond the automobile as a product. An important aspect is the interrelationship between the areas of life where the car meshes seamlessly with a connected environment, with a particular focus on services that involve interaction between car and environment. 

Potential for V2G

With EVs still not mainstream but fast growing and a tipping point approaching, the question arises of the potential capacity and infrastructure requirements for V2G.

According to Navigant Research in a recent study, the opportunities will vary significantly by location depending on the confluence of a growing EV population, an advanced grid, penetration of renewable resources and encouraging grid regulatory structures. While such confluences are rare, they will grow in number as EV populations increase, grid operators adapt to new distributed energy technologies and grid services become increasingly important to grid operation.

As far as infrastructure goes, Navigant Research anticipates that the total capacity to support EVs will outstrip the grid services market capacity. The company projects the global grid services market as nearly 198GW in 2017, growing over the next decade to more than 516GW in 2026.

For Western Europe for example, by 2026 the total EV supply equipment (EVSE) capacity is projected to be 94% the size of the grid services market capacity at that time. Globally, EVSE capacity will likely be over 40%.

However, the actual potential for EVs to participate in V2G is very limited. Taking into account factors such as availability, e.g. proximity to a charging station, Navigant estimates V2G capacity in 2017 was near 2.6GW, or just over 1% of the global grid services market, increasing to 20.5GW or 4% in 2026.

But given the technology’s infancy and despite likely rapid growth, the actual impact is likely to be only marginal throughout the next decade, averaging well below 1%, according to the company.

Nevertheless, it anticipates that as an indirect benefactor of the EV and EVSE markets, small investments in programmes and technologies are likely to create significant returns to the electric power sector.

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