The Fuse

Nuvve CEO on Vehicle-to-Grid Technology, Energy Storage, and Autonomy

by Matt Piotrowski | September 12, 2017

Gregory Poilasne is the co-founder and CEO of Nuvve Corp., a California-based start-up that develops vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology. V2G uses electric vehicles as an energy storage solution while they are parked, which is on average more than 80 percent of the time. This process helps smooth grid imbalances and offers consumers economic opportunities.

He spoke to The Fuse about the consumer benefits of V2G, energy storage, and autonomous vehicles.

What is the main mission of Nuvve? What do you hope to accomplish with V2G technology?

Our mission as a whole is integration of electric vehicles and integration of renewable energy sources. The integration of renewable energy sources will only happen if we have enough storage, and the integration of electric vehicles also requires the optimization of energy use. If you combine those two without balancing the grid, there will be a very, very big problem. That’s where V2G comes in. If you mix electric vehicles and renewables while adding V2G, the distribution and transmission of the grid will operate smoothly.

V2G’s goal is to fully optimize the charging of the vehicle and the use of local generation.

Our role is to optimize the use of energy with demand charge management and storage that can be used over a longer period of time. We want to fully optimize the charging of the vehicle and the use of local generation while accessing markets that can generate revenue and reduce the total cost of car ownership.

Critics of electric vehicles say that they will overload the grid. Should that be a worry?

What we are seeing now is volatile generation and we need a system to smooth it out.

We need a platform that provides flexibility and frequency regulation. With V2G, not all of the energy from the battery flows back to the grid at the same interval. V2G will take only about 20 percent of a vehicle’s battery at one time. And not all vehicles will provide energy back to the grid at the same time, so there shouldn’t be concerns about overloading the grid. We will look at the needs of the grid and then dispatch those needs onto vehicles and stationary storage. It’s super-critical that average consumption will also be peak consumption.

What do you see as the biggest challenges with consumers adopting electric vehicles and V2G?

The biggest challenge is that V2G is a complex system, and when we target consumers, we need to make our message simple. Besides that, range is still a hurdle, but it will be resolved soon.

Consumers will eventually see the benefits of a lower electric bill, the ability to generate revenue from parking their car, and knowing that whenever they need their vehicle, it will be charged.

An important selling point is answering the consumer’s question: What’s in it for me? Everyone understands the benefits of reducing pollution and cutting oil demand, but people tend to be self-interested when making big purchases. But they will eventually see the benefits of a lower electric bill, the ability to generate revenue from parking their car, and knowing that whenever they need their vehicle, it will be charged. A guarantee of the warranty of the battery is also critical, as is having support from the right infrastructure.

What projects are Nuvve now working on?

We got an exclusive license through the University of Delaware for V2G technology and we have global rights to V2G technology, which focuses on the synergy between the electric vehicle and the power system. In 2012, we started a project in Hong Kong. That was the first time the software was used outside the U.S. It was a little early for Hong Kong, so we did some homework on Europe, and figured out Denmark was a good place to start. The next year, we were awarded a project called Nikola. The goal of the project was to analyze all of the services that EVs could perform while connected to the grid. We looked at grid-wide services, distribution services, and “behind the meter” services, which is power produced on-site for private use rather than through a utility. We worked with consumers to help them optimize their EVs. By the end of the project, Nissan had joined and we received a lot of interest across Europe. Last year, we launched commercial operation in Denmark, which was the first successful commercial V2G system where consumers made money from parking their cars.

Right now we are expanding across the Nordic states and making headway in the Netherlands (where we’ve been aggregating about 19,000 unidirectional charging stations), the UK, and France.

What work are you now doing in the United States?

The birthplace of the technology is in Delaware. We just took over the license in the U.S. from University of Delaware (UD) over a year ago. At the University, we are using stationary storage to keep a minimum capacity to send energy into the the grid. We are also using the UD program for a significant large-scale rollout. In California, we won a California Energy Commission award to perform V2G in San Diego, and the project is kicking off right now with partners such as Nissan, Mitsubishi, and BMW, along with local utilities. Implementation will initially happen on University California San Diego (UCSD) campus, which is a 46-MW micro-grid. UCSD is a perfect set-up for us to integrate solar, voltage control, reactive power, and other functionalities that can be used either behind the meter or on the distribution network system.

Employees with an EV will see a reduction on their monthly parking costs because their cars will be used during the day for grid services.

In this project, we are focused on both fleet vehicles and work-place charging. Employees with an EV will see a reduction on their monthly parking costs because we will use their cars during the day for some type of grid services. At night, fleet vehicles will use the charging stations. So, while we are charging the fleet vehicles, we will also help keep the grid balanced.

There are a lot of technological advancements happening quickly in the transportation sector. How does V2G fit in with autonomy? How will autonomy support electrification?

We’re now using V2G with businesses, but the next step is to get into the consumer market. That’s a little more challenging. For consumers, it will not be just about V2G, but also how easy it will be for them to use their vehicles. With autonomy, there’s the “ease-of-use” factor, which is critical. By making driving easier, consumers will want to use autonomous vehicles. There are other functionalities that consumers will be able to add, such as carsharing or on-demand entertainment.

There’s also the issue of the integration of AVs into the fleet, and especially city-center integration. AVs will have to address a wide market, but integration will eventually have to happen first in cities. So, ease-of-use, increased functionalities, and city-center integration are key in order to get consumer adoption. When you get those three pieces, they will help make autonomous driving viable. We want something that is easy to use. We don’t really want to interact with the system. Consumers will put in their settings initially and then as they travel, everything will happen in the background. Once we can get to that point, autonomous driving will be a good fit.

How do you see electrification, V2G technology, and autonomous vehicles impacting the labor market? What job opportunities will there be?

The range of services and applications that can come from electric cars, autonomy, and V2G is very, very large.

There will be an entirely new infrastructure that will be built, and that will require labor. I like to compare what’s happening now in electrification and energy storage to the internet in the 1990s. At that time, you were just using the internet for emails. It was very hard then to see all the services that would come about after that time period. What will happen in transportation in the next 15-20 years is very difficult to see. The range of services and applications that can come from electric cars, autonomy, and V2G is very, very large. To foresee what impact all of this will have on society is impossible, but if you look at the full scope, it will be very significant.