The unknown unknowns of vehicle-to-grid technology

Since June 2020, a team from the Australian National University in Canberra has been studying the possibility of integrating electric vehicles into the grid. Known as REVS (Realizing Electric Vehicle-to-Grid Services), the trial is implementing vehicle-to-grid technology in a fleet of 51 Nissan Leafs in Canberra. Nissan Leafs are used because they are the only widely available electric vehicle in Australia capable of two-way charging with explicit warranty support. It should be noted that the majority of electric vehicles sold in Australia are Tesla Model 3s, which do not yet come equipped with hardware or software to enable V2X.

From the REVS trial:

“In an Australian first, the REVS project demonstrates how commercially available electric vehicles and chargers can contribute to energy stability by transferring power back and forth across the grid. Electric vehicles will feed power back into the grid during rare events (to avoid the possibility of outages) and the fleet owner will be paid when their vehicles are used for this service.

“Employing 51 Nissan LEAF electric vehicles in the ACT Government and ActewAGL fleets, the REVS project aims to support the reliability and resilience of the electric grid, unlocking economic benefits and making electric vehicles a more viable and attractive transportation option for fleet operators. The REVS consortium spans the full power and transport supply chains and includes ActewAGL, Evoenergy, Nissan, SG Fleet, JET Charge, ACT Government and the Australian National University. Together, the consortium will demonstrate V2G live in the electricity market and produce knowledge sharing materials aimed at accelerating the deployment of V2G nationwide.

“The project has been approved by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and received funding under ARENA’s Advancing Renewables programme.

“The REVS trial implements a variation of V2G, namely a fleet of electric vehicles that sells frequency control ancillary services (FCAS) in exchange for wholesale market value. There are many other variations possible.”

Their report — Lessons learned – is a candid review of their progress and an analysis of what could be done better – now that the unknown unknowns have become known unknowns. Challenges included: making decisions with imperfect and incomplete information; underestimating complexity; lack of back-up plans to deal with obstacles; getting the right people to do the right thing at the right time; and problems of lack of knowledge of the various components of the process.

Delays in one area could lead to delays in others, resulting in additional costs. “To give an example, fleets require business continuity and therefore sites must receive their vehicles and chargers at the same time. A delay in installing the charger meant that delivery of the vehicles also had to be delayed by Nissan. Incremental delays of one to two months were not long enough to justify Nissan ordering new replacement vehicles, allowing original vehicles to be released for other customers, in part due to bottlenecks. supply bottleneck caused by Covid-19. In addition, delays were notified at the last hour, so that the vehicles had already been equipped for the test, therefore could not be resold to another customer. As a result, as an interim measure, Nissan was forced to detain the vehicles, resulting in additional detention, retention and depreciation costs.

Some consortium members were small, flexible companies able to operate in a high-risk environment, and others were large companies or government departments, which lacked the flexibility to adapt to changing plans. This made the timing difficult. They discovered, while dealing with multiple departments in multiple areas, that you cannot treat a government as a single entity. What was considered one fleet of vehicles for one customer turned out to be many fleets for many customers.

The project would have benefited from a unicorn – someone who had worked with a similar essay before – possibly from overseas. It would also have been beneficial to work with a local charger manufacturer who could have resolved certification issues with AS/NZS 4777.”We identified the need for a step-by-step process of review and variation to deal with the expected emergence of unknowns-unknowns in a managed way.

“However, our main conclusion was that electric vehicle charging itself is a new technology that occupies a space between electricity and transport for which there is not yet a common language. This means that consortium members continually act as translators, perhaps mistranslating and/or not realizing the importance of different issues at the appropriate time.While all of this results in valuable learning, it is not always timely.

I saw similar issues when discussing apprenticeship training in the automotive industry.

I look forward to reports of further progress in this challenging yet exciting field. One wonders if in the future these researchers will become unicorns for new V2G trials in the South Pacific area?

The authors of the project were: Kathryn Lucas-Healey, Laura Jones, Björn Sturmberg and Md Mejbaul Haque.

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