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Bidirectional Charging Electric Vehicles: V2G, V2H, V2L Explained

Bidirectional Charging Electric Vehicles: V2G, V2H, V2L Explained

Some electric vehicles don’t just take electricity and use it for their own propulsion; they can also power some of your everyday needs.

By: Andrei Nedelea

Bidirectional charging is becoming more common in electric vehicles, and buyers are increasingly looking for models that offer this capability. As the name implies, it means that an EV can not only take electricity and store it in its battery pack, but it can also provide electricity to power devices, appliances, and even power tools.

You can even make money if your EV has a specific kind of bidirectional charging functionality that allows the car to charge at night when electricity rates are low and then feed that power back into the grid during the day when electricity is more expensive if your local provider has implemented a smart grid in your area.

Bidirectional charging can also save you money since you can charge your EV’s battery during off-peak hours and then use that stored electricity instead of drawing from the grid when it’s more expensive.

Most EVs on sale in the US don’t offer this two-way charging capability, but that will soon change with major manufacturers announcing their plans to add it to all their electric models in the next couple of years. General Motors, for instance, intends to add bidirectional charging to all its 2026 model-year EVs, and even Tesla, whose CEO Elon Musk had previously downplayed its importance, has also confirmed it is coming to all its models by 2025.

There are several types of bidirectional charging, which are the same in principle but also different in terms of functionality and usefulness. Let’s break them down to see what sets them apart.

Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G)

V2G is the kind of bidirectional charging that allows you to make or save money on electricity. It refers to a type of charging capability that allows an EV to send electricity directly into the grid. In this role, the EV’s big battery acts like your own personal energy storage facility, and its onboard charger is specifically designed to be able to communicate with the utility network through a special charger that you will have to install in your home.

With this functionality, your EV can not only allow you to save or earn money, but it can also help stabilize the grid and reduce carbon emissions. Even though V2G functionality is not especially common among modern EVs, it is a feature that will become more popular as individuals’ carbon footprints may become monitored in the future, helping bring them down. The Nissan Leaf and Ford F-150 Lightning are among the few EVs to offer V2G.

It’s worth noting that V2G is still relatively new, and it may not be supported by your local utility grid since it needs to be a smart grid that allows for communication back and forth between the grid and the vehicle. Ask your local electricity company if it is possible to set up V2G in your area before buying an EV specifically for this purpose, not after you’ve bought it.

Vehicle To Home (V2H)

If you want your EV to power your home with electricity from its battery pack, then you should choose one with vehicle-to-home (V2H) charging. This is sometimes referred to as vehicle-to-building (V2B) charging, which is much more common among EVs than V2G.

With V2H, your EV can serve as a source of backup power for your home, and given how big battery packs are getting, a fully charged EV could supply all the power your home needs for several days. The Nissan Leaf has a V2H function (it’s the only EV on the market with both V2G and V2H), and it can supply up to 7 kW of electricity and provide electricity to your home for around two days.

Just like V2G, V2H can save you money on your electricity bill since you can still charge your EV during off-peak hours and then use that power instead of power from the grid when it’s more expensive. It also requires a specific type of home charger to be installed, which not only allows for two-way charging but also converts AC (alternating current) from the grid into the DC (direct current) used by EVs and vice versa.

Vehicle To Load (V2L)

If you want to take your EV camping and use it as a power source, then you need one with a vehicle-to-load (V2L) function. It allows the transfer of power from the EV’s battery pack to any appliance or device you plug in, although there is a power limit, usually no higher than 3.6 kW, and you need a special adapter that plugs into the EV's charging port.

This type of bidirectional charging is more common among the EVs you can buy today, and you can have it on most Hyundai-Kia vehicles built on the 800-volt E-GMP platform. They can supply 120 volts (or 230 volts in Europe) and 15 amps, which is enough to power a coffee machine, vacuum cleaner, or an electric stovetop for cooking.

V2L is available in the Kia Niro EV, EV6, and EV9, as well as in the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Ioniq 6, and the latest Kona. The Genesis GV60, which is built on the E-GMP dedicated EV architecture, also has this feature. Interestingly, even though the Nissan Leaf has the more advanced V2H and V2G functions, it doesn’t offer V2L, but you can find it on vehicles from other brands like the MG4 and ZS models available in Europe.

Vehicle To Vehicle (V2V)

Some EVs can charge other EVs, and this is what’s known as vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) charging. This is a form of V2L, although not all EVs that have V2L also have V2V. The Lucid Air, for instance, can supply electricity from its own battery to “jump” another EV, but it requires a special adapter and can only give up to 9.6 kW, which adds around 30 miles of range per hour for an EV with an average-sized battery pack. The two MG EVs can also give electricity to another EV, although it doesn't seem to work very well.

Vehicle To Everything (V2X)

An EV’s ability to provide the electricity stored in its battery for other uses falls under the broad category of vehicle-to-everything (V2X) charging. This is an umbrella term for now since there are not currently available EVs that can supply power to any application—they are all specialized for now and fall into one or two of the above categories.

This will most likely change in a few years, and it may become the only term we use to describe bidirectional charging in EVs, as all the specific types of charging that are today distinct will probably be combined into a single system. Once this is implemented, EVs will be even more useful, flexible, and better for the environment than they are today.

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