PG&E and BMW expand electric vehicle test program in California


Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and BMW Group said they will expand their six-year-old pilot program focused on charging electric vehicles (EVs) with excess renewable energy to support grid reliability.

Designed for a larger group of BMW EV drivers—about 3,000 EV drivers compared to 100 and 400 in phases one and two, respectively—phase three will further explore how paying drivers to shift charging times can help meet the needs of the electric grid and use excess renewable energy. PG&E will work with BMW to send signals to participants encouraging them to charge at times that support the grid.

Participating drivers earn incentives for smart charging, including $150 at sign-up and up to an additional $250 a year by following charge-time recommendations. The total amount earned over the two years depends on individual participation in charging events.

Future EVs may be able to discharge the vehicle battery to support the grid during emergencies. PG&E and the BMW Group will explore this potential by testing vehicle-to-grid functionalities in a lab setting. Efforts could support bill savings for EV-driving customers and include testing EV batteries for use as backup generation and other grid services.

Smart charging

Through smart charging, EVs act as a grid resource to support reliability. Smart charging focuses on moving EV charging away from times when electricity is in high demand and toward times when less demand exists along with more renewable energy on the grid, such as mid-day.

Around 320,000 EVs plug into PG&E’s electric grid. As EV adoption continues to grow, the potential for these vehicles as a flexible grid resource becomes more significant, the utility said.

The ChargeForward pilot was launched in 2015. Optimizing charging with renewable energy was the focus of the second phase. Initial tests showed participants averaged more than 55% of renewable energy charging, more than double the national average at the time.

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