Bad weather presents a challenge with electric vehicle charging

Electric vehicles and some hybrids could help sustain the grid during a natural disaster.

A deadly cold snap that hit Texas in 2021 left more than 4.5 million homes and businesses without power for days. A handful of owners of Ford F-150 hybrid pickup trucks with the PowerBoost feature used the truck’s on-board generator to power their homes for several days.

The all-electric version of the F-150 is available with a smart backup power feature that allows two-way charging to power a suburban home or small business. The feature is standard on more expensive models with extended battery life and costs $500 as an over-the-air software upgrade on other models.

Ford’s $1,310 Charge Station Pro home charging station, which comes standard with the extended-range battery, is required. It acts as an interface when the truck is plugged in and sends power from its battery to a home. A $3,895 home integration system is also required, jointly developed by Ford and its preferred installation partner Sunrun.

Bi-directional flow enables vehicle-to-grid capability, allowing an electric vehicle to send excess power back to the electrical grid.

Kontou said she expects vehicle-to-grid technologies to grow with the adoption of electric vehicles.

“People understand that electric vehicles are more than just cars and trucks,” Cullen said. “It’s also the charging systems, the storage, the network and how they serve and reinforce each other.”

The grid vehicle is also being tested with larger electric vehicles, including electric school buses.

“A lot of people focus on electric school buses because they have a big battery, and for most of the day they just sit there,” Stainken said.

Last year, Michigan’s DTE Energy piloted six electric buses in two school districts to test vehicle-to-grid applications. Dominion Energy of Richmond, Va., plans to deploy more than 1,000 electric school buses in Virginia by 2025 for the same purpose.

Other large utility vehicles, including semi-tractors and garbage trucks, are becoming electrified, said Rick Kozole, the Detroit-based automotive and industrial group leader at consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal.

“We can use these batteries for power after a natural disaster,” he said.

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