The focus on EV charging infrastructure is timely. Two things historically have stood in the way of mass market adoption of EVs: vehicle economics and charging infrastructure availability. However, with steadily decreasing battery costs and a continually growing EV market, many experts in China see charging infrastructure, rather than vehicle economics, as the bottleneck to continued strong growth in EV adoption.
Owning an EV gives you access to much more than just a greener lifestyle. With bidirectional EV charging, you can actually make money from your EV, among other exciting benefits. Have you heard of bidirectional EV chargers and are thinking of buying one for your EV but still not really sure what they do? This is a common issue for many EV owners approaching the charging world. You try looking for some information online and before you know it, you’re lost in a sea of technical buzzwords, seven hyperlinks deep into a Wikipedia search that started with bidirectional EV charging and somehow ended with Jennifer Lopez. This article is your lighthouse: it will give you some background on what bidirectional EV charging means and how it works. We’ll then spell out the concrete benefits it can bring you as an EV owner.
What is Bidirectional Charging and How Does it Work?
Bidirectional EV charging is exactly what it sounds like: EV charging that goes two ways. Whilst with unidirectional (one-way) EV chargers, electricity flows from the electric grid into the electric vehicle, with bidirectional (two-way) EV chargers, electricity can flow both ways.
But how does this work? Well, when an EV is charged, AC (alternating current) electricity from the grid is converted to DC (direct current) electricity, the kind that can be used by a car. This conversion is carried out by either the car’s own converter or a converter located in the AC wallbox EV charger. Then, when you want to use that energy stored in the EV’s battery for a house or send it back to the grid, the DC electricity used in the car logically has to be converted back to AC electricity. Although currently there aren’t many bidirectional EV chargers out there, all contain internal converters. This means that they can handle the electrical conversion back from DC to AC. The DC EV charger can even control the amount of power supplied to and from the battery.
Owning an EV is already significantly cheaper than owning one of their fossil-fuel-guzzling rivals. Canadian academic, Ingrid Malmgren, estimates a total saving of around €5000 over the lifetime of a vehicle. With a bidirectional AC integrated EV charger, instead of a unidirectional one, you can save even more if you live in a country where energy costs vary during the day. For instance, in some countries, like Spain, if you charge your vehicle during the night when electrical demand is low, you will pay less for electricity than during the day’s peak hours.
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Every electric car comes standard with a portable EV charger. (This thick cable that plugs into a wall outlet and the car counts as a charger.) However, every manufacturer provides a different unit, with varying levels of charging capabilities. In some cases, the same manufacturer provides different standard charging equipment depending on which of its EV offerings you purchase or lease.