“V2X can make a significant contribution to the prevention of power shortages”

“V2X Suisse” has a vision, which is that electric cars that are not being driven should inject electricity back to the grid when needed. Working alongside a number of partners, Mobility has shown that the idea works in practice. Project manager Marco Piffaretti discusses the huge potential of the technology.

Text   Daniel Schriber


  • Sustainability

Marco Piffaretti, the “V2X Suisse” project launched a year ago. As its manager, what conclusions are you able to draw?

With 50 e-cars stationed at 40 Mobility locations, “V2X Suisse” is the largest trial of its kind in Switzerland to date – and one of the largest in Europe. So far, some 3500 customers have covered more than 400’000 kilometres with the bidirectional vehicles. As a result, we now know that, from a technical standpoint, feeding their electricity back into the grid works very well. We’ve also been able to show, by means of various tests, that the project meets the requirements of Swissgrid, Switzerland’s grid operator.

What are these requirements?

The production and consumption of electricity have to be in balance for the transmission grid to function. With our project, we wanted to show that V2X could one day make a significant contribution to preventing power shortages and avoiding overloads. In order to compensate for grid fluctuations, one requirement is that electric cars must be able to respond to signals from Swissgrid within two seconds. We’ve managed to do that. In times of looming power shortages and grid bottlenecks, this is a major achievement that underlines the potential of bidirectional charging technology.

Then there’s nothing to stop the widespread rollout of V2X?

That’s definitely the case from a technical point of view. But the challenges regarding the rollout of charging infrastructure in Switzerland remain immense. An even bigger challenge is the regulatory framework. Other countries are more progressive in this respect and further down the road.

What’s the nature of this challenge?

Current legislation is geared towards to a small number of large and somewhat inert power stations, such as large pumped-storage facilities. V2X, on the other hand, offers an energy source that’s digitally responsive, very fast, diffuse and flexible. Our lawmakers must take this development into account. We’re on the right track with the Federal Act on a Secure Electricity Supply from Renewable Energy Sources currently under discussion in Parliament.

What are the advantages of V2X technology compared to, say, large pumped-storage power stations?

It’s not about playing the two systems off against each other. Pumped-storage power plants will continue to ensure we keep a balance going forward – but primarily over longer periods of time, including seasonal storage. V2X, on the other hand, allows us to react faster and more flexibly to short-term fluctuations. E-cars are ideal for balancing out fluctuations that occur over hours, days or weeks. What’s more, private photovoltaic operators can take advantage of the technology, as V2X allows them to “save” surplus photovoltaic production generated during the day for the evening.

The charging station in detail: The e-car is connected, V2X discharging is running.

Where does it make sense to use bidirectional charging technology?

Anywhere you find photovoltaic arrays and electric vehicles. It means deploying a bidirectional charging station instead of purchasing expensive, powerful stationary batteries. And because you can optimise your self-consumption, you save on expensive grid fees.

How have customers reacted to the project?

We’re pleasantly surprised at the number of customers showing an interest in the new technology. We’ve received lots of expressions of support, we’ve given lectures and we’ve answered journalists’ enquiries. The basic idea behind V2X going forward is that we as the Mobility Cooperative will not only fly the flag for shared mobility, but for shared energy as well. This vision appears to be well received by our customers.

What’s next for V2X?

The “V2X Suisse” project is due to run until the end of March 2024, with the final report following a few months later. Considering how sales of electric vehicles are forecast to grow in the coming years, it’s already clear that the technology holds enormous potential. The next few years will see millions of e-cars appearing on the market; looked at globally, they could constitute a giant power station on wheels.

What are the most important prerequisites for turning this vision into reality?

At the end of the day, sharing energy and benefits has to be straightforward and, especially, economical. There are still hurdles to overcome before that’s the case. However, it does look as if the Swiss parliament will soon abolish double grid fees, which will lay the foundations for economically sensible implementation of the technology. There’s no doubt in my mind that the future belongs to V2X technology.

For Marco Piffaretti, one thing is clear: V2X technology is the future.

The “V2X Suisse” project

The “V2X Suisse” project was launched in Bern on 6 September 2022. Since then, the project participants have been investigating, as a first step, how electric cars can be used as power banks in order to close gaps in the power supply and improve grid stability. Seven companies are behind the project, with Mobility taking the lead and providing 50 Honda e cars stationed at 40 of its locations throughout Switzerland. These electric vehicles will feed electricity from their batteries back into the grid when they’re not being driven.

In addition to Mobility, the following companies are involved in the project: car manufacturer Honda, software developer sun2wheel, charge station developer EVTEC and aggregator tiko, with scientific support provided by novatlantis in collaboration with the ETH Federal Institute of Technology. The project is supported by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy’s pilot and demonstration programme.

Images Copyright: Patrick Besch

Your browser version is no longer supported

Update your browser or use an alternative. We recommend using Google Chrome, Safari, Edge or Firefox.