Tech firm with Petaluma ties joins early move to power homes, grid via car batteries
Enphase Energy Inc., with offices in Petaluma, has thrown its hat into a competitive ring by announcing plans to introduce a system to transfer power generated by electric vehicles and home solar systems either into the power grid, or serve as an emergency power source.
Company officials say its new two-way charger, or bidirectional electrical vehicle chargers, is “expected to work with most electric vehicles.”
Enphase successfully demonstrated the system earlier this month and expects to introduce it next year.
With the move, Enphase has joined a short list of manufacturers vying for a share of the vehicle-to-grid (V2G) market that is forecast to reach $28.12 billion by 2026, according to IndustryARC.com, a Furion Analytics market research and consulting firm.
IndustryARC analysts predict the global V2G market to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 4.28% from 2021 to 2026, based on data showing that adoption of electric vehicles worldwide is affecting demand for EV charging infrastructures.
Bidirectional charging only allows direct current to alternating current transfers from solar panels to batteries using inverters. It also can reverse the process using AC-to-DC converters to send power from EV batteries back to a residence to keep lights and appliances running in emergencies, as well as return excess power to the grid for credits or refunds.
“The market for ‘green charging’ options is growing, and Enphase’s bidirectional concept has been well received,” said Mohammad Alkuran, senior director of systems engineering at Enphase. “More new electric vehicles are being designed to include two-way charging systems.”
Sam Fiorani, vice president of Auto Forecast Solutions, said such bidirectional charging technology is still in its infancy.
But “once it becomes mainstream it could revolutionize how EV owners view their vehicles,” he said. “Instead of seeing their cars and pickups as separate from their homes, they could become more integrated into owner’s lives the way the telephone has become over the past decades.”
He said the technology also is seen as an integral part of the next wave of EV evolution — called V2X, the vehicle-to-everything world — that would interconnect transportation and power systems to transfer electricity stored in EV batteries to the grid, buildings, homes and other energy sourcing destinations.
Several EV models available today feature bidirectional charging. They include the Nissan Leaf (ZE1), the Ford 150 Lightning EV pickup and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Volkswagen also announced its ID4 electric car offering bidirectional charging in January.
Only a handful of manufacturers are producing two-way power conversion devices, such as Autel Maxi Charger V2X, Brek Electronics, Delta V2X, Emporia Energy, Fermata Energy FE-16, Rectifyer Technologies Highbury and WallBox North America.
These advanced chargers are more sophisticated and expensive than regular chargers since they incorporate state-of-the-art power conversion electronics to manage energy flow to and from the vehicle.
More firms are expected to enter this arena as consumers look for sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels and embrace greenhouse gas reduction efforts.
“We’re seeing increased demand for backup emergency power among homeowners who have faced outages due to storms, grid overloads and power failures,” Alkuran said. “These events have prompted many to seek better ways to ensure uninterrupted service enabling them to become more energy self-sufficient. We assist customers in achieving this goal by connecting onsite renewable energy from solar power during the day to be used at night, the next day at home or when driving an EV.”
“Our goal is to enable everyone to have access to this technology,” said Andy Newbold, Enphase communications director.