Selling electricity back to the grid

Electric cars will sell electricity back to the grid in the future, making them even more cost effective for owners

In the next few years, it's very likely that electric cars won't just draw electricity from the grid when charging, but they'll also sell it back during hours of peak demand too.

This is known as 'vehicle-to-grid' (V2G) technology, and it could hold the key to managing the extra demand that electric cars will inevitably place on the system in the future.

It's important to remember that while charging electric cars en masse will lead to higher energy generation demands, the National Grid isn't worried that this would cause the much-speculated energy shortages or blackouts.

In this regard, V2G tech would help lessen the strain during peak hours, as well as helping drivers to save money, as the cost of owning and running a car will be reduced.

What is vehicle-to-grid charging?

When the technology arrives, it will be possible to feed the energy stored in your electric car’s battery back to the grid, otherwise known as the national electricity network. This will help supply homes with power during the hours when demand is highest – often the evening and the early hours of the morning.

A nationwide V2G system will be made possible by new electric cars and the latest charging technology. At the moment, electric vehicles and their chargers operate in a one-way system where the charger draws power from the grid into the battery.

In the future, the battery will be able to discharge electricity back to the charger, which in return will supply it back to the grid. Owners could be compensated for the energy they supply, and could take advantage of lower energy tariffs by charging their cars during off-peak hours.

Effectively, the difference between the tariffs earned when supplying energy to the grid and the tariffs faced when drawing energy from it would be profit.

Nissan and energy supplier OVO launched the world’s first bi-directional car charger: limited to a trial of 1,000 units initially, its 6kW charger could both charge and discharge an electric vehicle connected to the electrical grid. OVO says commercial devices will be available to purchase soon.

Likewise, the Government has committed tens of millions of pounds in funding to 21 different vehicle-to-grid projects to further improve the technology.

Can I sell electricity back to the grid now?

If you have installed solar panels, wind-turbines or other means of self-generation at your home, then it is possible to sell energy back to the grid. However, for electric-car owners, this isn't possible yet.

Since April 2010, the UK has had what is known as the feed-in tariff (FIT), which is a set of rates at which owners of wind, solar and other energy generating forms can sell electricity back to the grid. These have periodically changed since the scheme was launched, decreasing in the sum per offered kilowatt-hour of energy generated each year. This is due to the rise in the uptake of solar panels, wind turbines and other generators.

The current solar power rates range from 3.79 pence per kWh to 1.69 pence per kilowatt-hour, depending on the number of panels installed. These are due for renewal in April 2020.

To sell energy back to the grid, you can contact your current energy supplier or choose a provider from the Government’s list of FIT installers.