By Ari Vanrenen
The PG&E and BMW iChargeForward pilot program, from July 2015 to December 2016, set out to test the ability of electric vehicles (EVs) to support the energy grid through smart charging and demand response.
The newly released program results successfully demonstrate PG&E’s theory that EVs can be used as a flexible grid resource – which could ultimately lead to cost savings associated with operating and maintaining the grid as well as owning an EV.
“As EV adoption continues to grow, the potential for these clean vehicles as a grid resource becomes more significant,” said David Almeida, program manager for the PG&E and BMW iChargeForward pilot program. “The success of this pilot program helps to demonstrate the future possibilities of scaling the smart charging capabilities of this growing resource to support the energy grid.”
For the 18-month pilot, PG&E and BMW worked together to test how managed charging of customer-owned EVs can benefit the grid during times of high demand. Throughout the program, PG&E sent demand response signals to BMW requesting a load reduction on the grid of up to 100 kilowatts. BMW selected vehicles for delayed charging — up to one hour delay per day — and sent a signal to the drivers through their existing BMW smart phone application.
About 100 BMW i3 drivers located in the San Francisco Bay Area participated in the pilot and earned an incentive by offering flexibility in charging their EV. Participants could choose to opt-out of participating in events based on their charging and personal needs. BMW supplemented the smart charging of these vehicles with a solar-powered energy storage system made from “second life” EV batteries — lithium-ion batteries from old BMW MINI E demonstration EVs — as a back-up to support the grid during these demand response events as necessary.
Over the course of the 18 months, the program dispatched 209 demand response events totaling 19,500 kilowatt-hours, equivalent to the electricity to power two homes for one year. On average, 20 percent of the grid resources were from the 100 participating EVs and 80 percent from the energy storage system. However, this varied based on the time of day the demand response events were called.
“This is the first pilot that PG&E has run that specifically leverages a combination of managed charging and used EV batteries. Not only did we test technical capabilities through the pilot, we also focused on customer research and behavior to better understand the participants’ perceptions and experience in the program,” Almeida added.
Based on customer research, 98 percent of participants indicated they were satisfied with the program and 93 percent stated that they are likely to participate in a similar program in the future if offered. Since the program was designed to run primarily in the background of customers’ lives, they were able to participate at high rates and felt little to no customer fatigue.
Based on the success of the BMW i ChargeForward pilot, BMW received a grant from the California Energy Commission to lead a second phase of the pilot with support from PG&E. The next phase will explore the ability to optimize charging events wherever the vehicle is charging — at home or on the go. The goal is to expand and test new smart charging functionality to generate greater benefits to the grid and to EV drivers.
Email Currents at Currents@pge.com.