Enel X's eMotorWerks subsidiary is rolling out its smart grid electric vehicle (EV) charger as a virtual battery that can participate as a demand response resource in the California wholesale power market.
Over the last year or so, Enel X has installed over 6,000 eMotorWerks network-connected EV chargers in California that together constitute a 30 MW, 70 MWh virtual battery, the company announced Tuesday.
- The EV chargers use eMotorWerks' JuiceNet cloud software platform to manage charging loads as a way of balancing grid demand, reducing wholesale energy costs and mitigating the intermittency of renewables.
Charging companies have long touted the potential for electric vehicles to provide grid services, while utilities have fretted about the impact charging load could have on local distribution circuits.
EMotorWerks says it is trying to solve both problems with one solution.
The San Carlos, Calif., company, a subsidiary of Enel X, has been deploying its JuiceBox EV chargers and other of its JuiceNet-enabled chargers in California since 2017.
With over 6,000 EV chargers in place, mostly in homes, eMotorWerks is able to connect those chargers using its cloud-based JuiceNet software so that they appear to the grid as a virtual battery.
EMotorWerks' virtual battery participated in demand response markets, but now is taking the next step and participating in the California ISO's demand response market, which has a higher bar for participation.
EMotorWerks' software predicts when load will be high and can shift charging times at its connected EV chargers to reduce load without affecting drivers. The software only makes small reductions in charging for any individual EV for a short amount of time, but in aggregate is enough to have an impact on the grid, Preston Roper, COO and CMO of eMotorWerks, told Utility Dive.
"We don't want the driver left high and dry," he said.
EMotorWerks also has developed software that can track real time sources on the grid, which allows for charging when wind and solar resources are generating. That allows for greater renewable energy penetration and could be useful to utilities looking to meet state mandated renewable energy targets, said Roper.
The software can also be used by commercial customers to reduce usage at times of peak load in order to reduce demand charges.
EMotorWerks' business model is a twist on the EV to grid concept, known as eV2G, where EV batteries are used as a grid power source.
Automakers have been slow to embrace the eV2g concept because it could compromise battery warranties and the equipment costs involved to enable grid-directed energy flows are high. But Roper said his company gets around the issue with its model, which he calls eV1g.
"We are reducing charging rather than taking energy out of the car," he said.
Roper said another advantage of its business model is that the customer pays for the charger, avoiding expense at the utility or ISO level that could add costs for ratepayers. Those customers sign agreements allowing eMotorWerks to use their chargers for grid services and, in return, receive JuicePoints from eMotorWerks, sort of like "frequent flyer miles," said Roper.
Right now, eMotorWerks EV charging system is mostly responding to CAISO demand response signals, but "the ability is there for other types of grid services, such as frequency response," Roper said. He declined to say when that might happen.
But Roper did say that eMotorWerks will soon make another announcement regarding its EV chargers having to do with utilities and third party partners.
Earlier this month, eMotorWerks announced an agreement with Xcel Energy under which it will provide the Midwestern utility with residential charging stations to support its new EV charging pilot program. The chargers are programed to automatically respond to grid conditions to help improve network reliability during times of peak demand.