Toyota is the latest automaker to work with an electrical utility on ways to use EVs to aid the grid.
The automaker on Thursday announced a pilot project with Texas-based utility Oncor for vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology, which allows EVs to discharge power back into the grid. Other automakers and utilities have already expressed interest in V2G as a way to help smooth out swings in supply and demand, taking some strain off electricity-generating infrastructure.
This is Toyota’s first such collaboration with a utility, according to a press release, and the automaker hopes to learn more about the potential of V2G tech from it.
“We envision a future where Toyota BEVs provide a best-in-class mobility experience, but also can be utilized by our customer to power their homes, their communities or even power back the electric grid in times of need,” Christopher Yang, group vice president of Toyota Electric Vehicle Charging Solutions, said in a statement.
The effort seems fairly small-scale. It will use Oncor’s testing “microgrid,” located at the utility’s System Operating Services Facility (SOSF) in south Dallas, not far from Toyota’s U.S. headquarters. The microgrid includes a V2G-capable EV charger, as well as solar panels and battery storage, according to Toyota. It’s unclear if more than one EV will be plugged into the system at a time.
“Toyota and Oncor plan to use a BEV along with the system to better understand the interconnectivity between BEVs and utilities,” the release said. Vehicles used could include the bZ4X, the first mass-produced Toyota EV for the U.S., or the upcoming Lexus RZ, a close relative for the automaker’s luxury brand.
To date, Toyota has dedicated far more effort toward how its hydrogen fuel-cell tech might help smooth the grid. That’s in keeping with a strategy that emphasized fuel-cell vehicles as an alternative to EVs, a strategy which Toyota only now seems to be changing.
In the meantime, V2G has received significant attention from industry stakeholders. California has already said that it considers V2G technology useful for supporting the grid, and it’s currently working on the regulatory framework. A most recent round of studies in 2020 showed how V2G tech might be standardized, allowing to connected EVs to help power the grid.
Recent California heat waves have prompted alerts about EV charging habits—and Texas has shown it also has issues meeting demand during unusual weather. Tesla, through a program with California utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), has demonstrated a different solution: using thousands of Powerwall battery packs to form a “virtual power plant.”
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