One of the major concerns with electric power grids could potentially be solved by electric vehicles. One of the many questions people ask about electric vehicles is “What happens when the power goes out?” Setting aside for a moment that gasoline pumps don’t work without power, either, the answer could actually be quite eye opening. Many automakers, Porsche included, are working on developing vehicle to grid reverse charging technology, which could feed energy back into the power grid to act as a very small power plant backup battery. The bigger question here is how can we back up the power grid when the world of drivers eventually transitions to all-electric driving? Would a larger pool of vehicles be able to stand in as a true temporary backup if the grid failed in an emergency.
Porsche worked with grid operator TransnewBW to conduct a real-world pilot test to consider just that idea. The test actually confirmed that a “swarm” of high-voltage EV batteries, like those found in a Taycan or the upcoming Macan EV, for example. A group of five production Taycan models were connected to the power grid using a Porsche Home Energy Manager device, and were tested in both a domestic environment and under laboratory conditions. The software in the HEM device was adapted specifically for the test, but it is easily transferrable to other HEM modules once approved for further consumer grade use.
“The charging technology of the Porsche Taycan and our Home Energy Manager and Mobile Charger products have a lot of potential for the future: the pilot test proved that. And the balancing power market isn’t the only thing a pooling system of this kind can be used for,” says Lutz Meschke, Deputy Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche AG. “Advanced solutions for green charging and other vehicle-to-grid applications are also conceivable. And that’s not all: if electric vehicles feed electrical energy back into the grid in the future for example with a private photovoltaic system, contributing to the expansion of regenerative energy, it will further increase the acceptance of e-mobility.”
This also conveniently answers a potential issue with green power generation sources. Solar power and wind power, in particular, are always in flux. Obviously solar panels don’t generate power when it’s not sunny, and wind turbines only work when the wind is blowing. So how do we take the energy they generate in excess and flatten that curve out to help provide power when not generating anything? The correct answer is batteries. And electric cars have a lot of batteries. In a future where we continue to move away from fossil fuel power generation (mainly coal and natural gas) it could come to pass that EVs help balance the grid.
This new pooling system that Porsche is developing will help control and coordinate the charging process in real time. In partnership with consulting firm IE2S, the team was able to create this cloud-based system that manages which car is providing how much power, and balancing it with the local grid’s needs. It does this by translating the grid operator’s balancing power setpoints into vehicle-specific signals. The communication happens rapidly and at high frequency to make sure the bi-directional transmission of power and data is synchronous.
“A real measurable milestone: the project team has managed to implement the complex communication infrastructure between our control system and several electric vehicles. At the same time, the strict specifications for storing and supplying balancing power have been met. This will enable us to integrate electromobility into the intelligent power grid of the future,” explains Dr Rainer Pflaum, CFO TransnetBW.
Pretty cool tech!