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Putting Energy in Reverse

Cars powering buildings, not the other way around

Part of the proverbial "rEVolution" is the continued push to find reliable power sources for the vehicles that will facilitate the much-desired energy transition. With innovation ever-evolving, of course researchers devised a method for doing things the other way around: a new pilot project in Colorado aims to have cars power buildings.

Described as "the next step in the City of Boulder’s efforts to promote electric vehicle adoption, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance community resilience," this pilot project, detailed recently on, will test the ability to reduce building energy costs at the North Boulder Recreation Center.

Typically, electric vehicle (EV) chargers provide energy in one direction: from the energy grid or building to the car.

In this new project, the city and Fermata Energy have installed a charging station that enables two-way electricity: from the building to the car and from the car back to the building.

This technology, called vehicle-to-building (V2B), can provide the city new ways to manage its energy load, and reduce energy costs.

Fermata Energy’s bidirectional charging system for EVs allows vehicle batteries to transfer energy from the battery back to the North Boulder Recreation Center in order to support the building’s electric loads and to reduce peak demand.

In the pilot, Boulder will connect one of its fleet vehicles – a Nissan LEAF from Boulder Nissan - to the V2B charging system. The V2B charging system also connects to the recreation center’s electricity system.

Typically, the easiest way to manage demand is to shift usage of major appliances outside of peak periods (usually between 2pm and 6pm). For this pilot, the collaboration intends to use the Nissan LEAF battery to reduce peak demand instead of shifting the usage from major appliances.

The fleet car will charge at night, when building energy demand is low, and discharge the battery to the recreation center during the day, when the building’s demand peaks.

The goal is to reduce peak demand which in turn can reduce the monthly electric bill, says.

Drivers, get ready to put your foot down, flip it, and reverse it.

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