Vehicle-to-grid charger maker Fermata receives UL certification

By Andy Colthorpe
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Fermata’s bidirectional charger (pictured) has been the first to attain UL 9741 certification. Image: Fermata Energy.

An electric vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging system which allows for bi-directional flows of power created by US maker Fermata Energy, has become the first to receive certification under a new standard introduced by UL.

UL 9741, ‘Investigation for bidirectional electric vehicle charging system equipment’, was first published on 18 March 2014. Almost six years to the day later Fermata – which has previously partnered with automakers including Nissan and received investment from backers such as Japanese utility company TEPCO – became certified under the North American safety standard.

Vehicle-to-grid, allowing parked cars to discharge as well as charge energy to and from the grid from their batteries means they can be used as a grid-balancing resource. Fermata Energy’s website states that the company was founded for two purposes: to accelerate the adoption of EVs and to accelerate the transition to renewable energy. By acting as stationary energy storage systems (ESS), EVs can provide services such as frequency regulation.

Thus far, while V2G technology has existed at least since the early 2000s, and been trialled on a commercial basis in the last five years or so, various barriers exist to widespread adoption. Last year, a research note from consultancy Apricum pointed some of these out, including potential reluctance of owners to allow aggregators access to their batteries, which may have an impact on battery lifetime through causing accelerated degradation of battery cells. Another possible barrier is that trials have only shown very limited commercial revenues being possible for using EV batteries for frequency regulation under most existing market structures.

From the carmakers’ point of view, only a few have given serious thought to enabling the function due to possible impact on warranties, with Nissan being the first to allow its Leaf EV to be used in this way. Earlier this month, reported on a successful V2G ‘showcase’ project where Leaf EV batteries were used for storing locally generated renewable energy.

Despite the barriers that exist, V2G technology is likely to have a “bright future,” Apricum experts Florian Mayr and Stephanie Adam, who co-authored that earlier mentioned piece on the consultancy’s website, said. While acknowledging a survey held in Germany by digital association Bitkom that found only 37% of EV owners would be willing to allow their cars to be used for V2G participation, if one large electric mobility market such as China went for it, others might follow quickly.

“With increasing demand for the required components, standardization will improve and economies of scale will kick in. Due to falling costs for hardware, the economic case for a car owner participating in V2G will improve, increasingly outweighing potential disadvantages of a reduced battery lifetime or limitations in car availability,” the Apricum note said.

Meanwhile, Fermata Energy CEO and founder David Slutzky said that bidirectional energy solutions “play an important role in reducing energy costs, improving grid resilience and combating climate change. We're excited to be the first company to receive UL 9741 certification and look forward to partnering with other organisations to advance V2G applications.”

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