The Battery Innovation Center in Greene County and Indianapolis-based Energy Systems Network are partnering with EV Connect, a Software-as-a-Service company in California, to deploy the state’s first vehicle-to-grid (V2G) capable charging system. Ram Ambatipudi, co-founder and vice president of business development at EV Connect, says V2G enables the transfer of stored energy in a vehicle battery into the electrical grid when there is a greater need. The partners says the pilot project in Indiana is designed to showcase the challenges and opportunities of V2G technology, which has not been widely used to date.

Ambatipudi says the project will look at a variety of aspects of V2G.

“This is going to be a really important testing and pilot project to first of all, get the technical steps in place to enable that bi-directional flow of electricity. We’re going to work with the utilities to get signals from them as to when they need some energy injected into the grid, get those signals and then facilitate that energy transfer. So, it really sets the plate for getting the technical concepts down and then working with the utilities around how to basically launch this in a bigger fashion in concert with the vehicle manufacturers, the utilities, the users, the drivers and other stakeholders in the value chain.”

EV Connect says while bi-directional vehicle charging technology has been validated for other areas such as vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-load, and vehicle-to-home, V2G hasn’t seen much deployment due to “a lack of integration into wholesale energy markets, the lack of real-world data about battery performance over time, and support from EV manufacturers.”

But why would an electric vehicle owner provide the energy stored in their vehicle to the grid?

“There are times when the grid is stressed, where they need certain additional generation resources during peak periods, for example,” said Ambatipudi. “Can we add some additional electricity resources from these vehicles onto the grid to help them with their peak period constraints to help with grid stabilization. But of course, there will likely need to be an incentive of some sort offered to vehicle owners to enable that transaction.”

Ambatipudi says EV Connect has acquired and shipped a number of charging stations to the BIC location in Newberry. He says the testing process will then go into effect with different vehicle batteries to test the ability to pull the “state of charge” information on the batteries, display that information to the utilities to let them know how much energy is available, and then submit the controls to begin the bi-directional energy transfer.

The testing process will take place over the course of several months.

“With the capabilities provided by EV Connect as part of our lab and on-site infrastructure, the BIC will be able to validate from the battery pack through to the fully installed systems in the vehicle,” Ben Wrightsman, chief executive officer of the Battery Innovation Center, said in a news release. “With the existing connection to the local ISO grid at our facility and direct collaboration with our utility provider and generator, combined, we have one of the few first of its kind platforms for advancing V2G into reality.”

Ambatipudi says the project is one of the most important collaborative efforts his company has undertaken.

“[The goal is] taking it from a pilot to a real useful market vehicle for further adoption,” he said. “Some of the things that we want to really test and promote are things like open standards protocols. There’s going to be a lot of vehicles from various kind of vehicle manufacturers. There’s a lot of different manufacturers of charging stations. So, how can we call communicate through a set of open standards so that there’s not these closed, insular type of solutions that make it harder from a uniform experience for drivers and vehicle owners.”

He says the group will also study the interoperability among the different types of vehicles, chargers, and other technologies. 

Ambatipudi says the project will look at a variety of aspects of V2G.

Ambatipudi says the project is one of the most important collaborative efforts his company has undertaken.