eMotorWerks shows off 30 MW virtualized battery in flexibility demo

Enel’s eMotorWerks has unveiled a 30 MW battery that is comprised of its electric vehicle (EV) charging points and the cars they hook up to. Essentially, this is eMotorWerks, on behalf of other aggregation stakeholders, throwing down the gauntlet to prove that you can group together EVs to act as a grid-scale battery asset.

The battery, a virtualized unit deployed since the start of 2017, has a 70 mWh capacity, and is managed by the company’s JuiceNet cloud system – acting as the Battery Management System (BMS). The unit is participating in the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) market, a way to purchase battery capacity in a wholesale day-ahead fashion.

Broadly, a utility could both buy energy from this kind of battery or pay to offload surplus energy into the unit. The objective of CAISO is to create a marketplace that firms can compete in, providing services to the grid by hooking up batteries or emergency redundancy – to balance demand and help accommodate the intermittent generation capacity of renewables.

The battery consists of 6,000 JuiceBox and JuiceNet-equipped chargers. The former has proven popular in residential homes, whereas other chargers could integrate themselves into the JuiceNet cloud platform. Riot outlined the company, back in 2016, where it had some 5,000 installations, and had been enjoying success selling to both consumers and utilities.

Back then, eMotorWerks had just become the only EV-focused firm to win in the Californian Demand Response Auction Mechanism (DRAM) bids, and since then, its prowess has caught the eye of Enel. The 2016 DRAM announcement said that the company planned to add 1,000 new charging stations in California for San Diego Gas and Electric, which the utility would use to compete in real-time energy markets.

The premise is pretty simple. A driver that plugs their EV into a JuiceBox or JuiceNet-enabled charger can choose to let eMotorWerks facilitate the use of the car’s battery as part of a grid-scale asset. For this, the driver is compensated with cash or discounts, resting assured that they won’t return to a car that they can’t drive due to depletion.

“Having proved at scale capabilities that no other EV charging technology has accomplished, eMotorWerks is aggregating and bidding EV loads at the wholesale level,” claims Val Miftakhov, CEO of eMotorWerks. “Our intelligent platform already delivers on grid integration, wholesale energy cost reduction and renewables integration with cost-effective load aggregation. It’s time for utilities around the country and the world to take advantage of these capabilities and help grow this virtual battery to support our shared electrification and decarbonization goals.”

Back in August, Enel X announced a partnership with Honda, which will see the JuiceNet platform form the basis of Honda’s SmartCharge testbed – a project that is looking to optimize EV charging times. Owners of the Honda Fit EV participating in the test will have their charging times altered to use electricity when total demand is low, or when there is a high availability of renewables.

The idea is to charge the cars when electricity is cheapest, but to always ensure that the car is charged before it is needed. In addition, the drivers that have opted-in can be compensated by JuiceNet. The users participate through the HondaLink EV application, where they can set their required charging times.

Notably, the Honda announcement says that there are 7,300 Enel X chargers in California, representing nearly 75 MW of capacity. Enel’s esteem in the industry will be a boon for its eMotorWerks subsidiary, part of the Enel X wing that is dedicated to new technologies.

A later announcement, at the beginning of September, saw Xcel Energy pick eMotorWerks to provide residential EV charging stations in Minnesota, on a 100-unit two-year project. The utility is taking a notable step, aiming to build its own capacity by providing the charging units to customers, adding that the process should also avoid the need to install a second electricity meter to charge the EV usage.

For utilities, this is a sensible approach, as they can leap-frog on the back of the growing interest in EVs among consumers. To this end, they don’t have to wait for people to adopt in-home batteries, to create a battery asset – they can instead gain access to an already-out-there opportunity, in the form of EVs.

However, the Xcel deployment is a bit small to get particularly excited about. A hundred cars do not an enthralling story make, however, with eMotorWerks drumming up interest in this concept, there is a lot of room for growth. There are strong efficiency arguments to make in favor using the batteries in these cars, as they are quite often doing nothing, and are in that sense wasted. However, there are concerns about how this sort of usage will affect manufacturer warranties, which need to be ironed out if this model is going to have success globally.