California’s power grid sucks. Every summer for as long as I can remember, we suffer flex alerts or rolling blackout warnings. The power will go out literally if the wind blows too hard. It doesn’t get optimistic about how the grid will handle thousands of EVs charging, but that’s an issue for another day. In the meantime, to help with our grid issue, Engadget reports that California and GM will use EVs as mobile battery packs to help with the state’s power supply.
GM will team up with everyone’s favorite power company, Northern California provider PG&E to roll out the program this summer. PG&E CEO Patti Poppe is optimistic about the program, saying in a release from GM:
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, it’s yet another advantage of clean-powered EVs, which are so important in our collective battle against climate change.
Here’s how things will go down. The whole plan hinges on bidirectional charging. Bidirectional charging is tech that allows an EV to take power from the grid and for the grid to take power from the EV. There are only a few vehicles on the market right now that support this tech, with the Nissan Leaf and Ford F-150 Lightning being the two most prominent.
The plan is to use EVs to power the homes of a small group of PG&E customers. This whole thing is really a test to see if the bidirectional charging can be rolled out to the public at large.
The barrier to all of this is software and infrastructure issues, something that both companies say this program will address. As for how many vehicles will be used for this program, that’s unknown. And it’s not known how long a vehicle will be able to handle powering a home. It comes down to specific power needs, the vehicle’s battery size, and the size of the home:
[PG&E spokesperson Aaron] August estimates that for an average California home using 20 kWh daily, a fully-charged Chevy Bolt would have enough juice to power the house for around 3 days.
Other studies show the average Californian home using 557 kWh/month.