Electric vehicles

Why Revel sees an opportunity in selling energy back to NYC’s grid

The EV ridesharing company recently kicked off the first-ever V2G pilot in NYC.
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Revel

· 5 min read

The energy transition is nothing if not a balancing act: Growing EV adoption will place more demand on the energy grid, but it could also result in more batteries that utilities can draw power from during peak times.

For EV fleet owners, like the all-electric ridesharing company Revel, this presents an opportunity: They could sell surplus energy from EV batteries back to utilities during downtime to help save on charging costs and even potentially generate revenue. But to incentivize discharging, utilities will need to make the financial opportunity clearer, Paul Suhey, co-founder and COO of Revel, told Emerging Tech Brew.

Despite the ambiguity, in August, EV ridesharing company Revel created the first program to export energy from EVs to the grid in NYC, using three bidirectional chargers located at Revel’s warehouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

“That challenge of integrating EVs onto the grid at scale is only going to increase in complexity over time,” Suhey said. “One thing that we definitely see the potential for with our rideshare fleet that we operate is to really serve as a stopgap resource to really help stabilize the grid when the grid is most stressed.”

The chargers are made by Fermata Energy, and the company is working with energy developer NineDot Energy and ConEdison to manage three Nissan Leafs as distributed energy resources that can send ~45 kilowatts back to the grid. It also has a fleet of 200 Tesla Model Ys, but those vehicles aren’t yet compatible with V2G.

Sending signals

Interest in vehicle-to-everything capabilities is growing as vehicles like the bidirectional Ford F-150 Lightning come to market and regulators work out how to manage EV batteries as grid assets. But it’s still early days when it comes to real-world applications of this tech.

“This is the first time that a company is actually exporting energy into New York City’s power grid, not just a [vehicle-to-building] application,” Suhey said. “One thing that we’re trying to accomplish is sending a general signal to the market that there’s demand for this technology on the vehicle side, on the charger side. And a lot of that, I think, is increasing because you have a fleet operator, like us, that is able to implement and scale this technology much more quickly than, say, if you had to rely exclusively on general consumers.”

The company’s interconnection agreement with ConEd allows bidirectional chargers to send energy stored in EV batteries back to the grid from 2pm to 6pm—typically the peak of local energy demand.

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Revel worked closely with ConEd on the company’s EV charging “superhub” in Brooklyn, establishing a relationship that Suhey said helped them partner effectively on this project. Suhey hopes this pilot can help develop the market mechanisms and regulatory framework to enable more vehicle-grid-integration (VGI) adoption, he said.

“We’ll definitely be looking forward to lessons learned from this project, not only through the process that we worked through with Revel, but also as they’re actually feeding back to the grid,” Amelia Berman, business development manager for e-mobility at ConEd, told us.

Looking ahead…

ConEd is still working to understand the value that V2G tech can add to the grid, Berman said. The utility remains focused on charging infrastructure to help address range anxiety for current and potential EV owners, so it’s too early to tell what role V2G or bidirectional charging might play down the road, she said.

One challenge such pilots may face is that many of the areas already experiencing issues with energy supply and resiliency—where VGI could be most useful—are often the grids where it’s most difficult to connect distributed assets. New York City is one example.

“If we’re trying to make the decision between a grid that is reliable and resilient versus EV adoption, grid reliability is going to win out every single time. So we really have to take that challenge seriously,” Suhey said. “That integration is explicitly very difficult in major cities where the grid is most congested.”

To move things forward with utilities, the EV industry should aim to meet the utility industry where it is, rather than try to create new structures or programs tailored to the needs of EV companies, Suhey said.

“It is our responsibility to understand the constraints of the grid and how the grid operates, and then operate within those constraints,” he said.

Continued and increasing transparency from utilities around the grid’s needs and costs would make that possible, Suhey said.

“The more that we can understand about how the utility incurs costs, how they incur costs at different locations at different times—that gives us more information, where we can dynamically change how and when we charge vehicles and be more responsive,” he said. “Over time, as we add more and more EVs to the grid, we can serve as more of an asset rather than a dumb liability.”

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