A Q&A with Angela and Frances of Bidirectional Energy
Knowing that EVs are the future, when do they become more than just a car transporting us everywhere we’d like to go (within range, of course)? With bidirectional charging, your EV could be making you up to $1000 every year in passive income. Not only would you be reducing your carbon footprint, you’d be helping reduce everyone else’s.
Enter Bidirectional Energy, one of our recent investments from the Shared Future Fund. When the electricity demand spikes in your area, utilities will buy electricity from batteries. With Bidirectional Energy, you can sell stored energy from your EV battery at a premium price. Founders, Angela Zhang and Frances Bell, have built a software-defined solution to let you know when these grid events happen, and you can decide whether or not you want to sell and how much.
During high-load times, utilities have to run carbon-intensive peaker plants to meet demand, burning lots of oil, coal, and natural gas. By sending energy back into the grid, consumers reduce the amount of power required from these peaker plants. It’s truly a win-win for everyone.
What has been the biggest challenge for bidirectional charging to really take off?
The biggest challenge we face today is the (un)availability of chargers and EVs that are bidirectional capable.
In the early days of EVs, both consumers and EV manufacturers were simply looking to have their EVs replicate the existing functionalities of gas-powered cars — longer range, shorter charging time, lower prices, etc. People weren’t really thinking about what else an EV could do beyond driving from Point A to Point B. Because of that, building bidirectional capability wasn’t a priority.
That all is changing now. A bidirectional EV can do so much more than transportation. It can power your home when there’s a blackout. It can reduce your monthly electricity bill. It can even earn you passive income while decarbonizing the electric grid at the same time (that’s where we come in!).
Forward looking companies are recognizing that. Several EV manufacturers are launching bidirectional EV models in the next year. Tens of EV charger manufacturers are rushing to build bidirectional EV chargers. These new EVs and chargers are really going to change how people use their car. We can’t wait.
Beyond the potential of generating passive income, what other reasons should EV owners purchase a charger and associated software?
There are a lot of other benefits to bidirectional charging! For example:
- Home backup: When the grid goes down, your lights stay on. Home backup is more affordable than ever now that your power is already sitting in your driveway, so you no longer have to purchase a separate system (such as a diesel generator or home batteries). All you need to do is install a bidirectional charger and get 5X the energy capacity as a typical home battery at half the price. An EV could easily power your home for 2-3 days.
- Greenhouse gas reduction: You can charge your cars when there’s excess solar energy during the day. Then, at night when the grid relies more on fossil fuels, your EV can discharge to power your home and send power to the grid. Decarbonizing our electric grid needs EVs as distributed batteries.
- Bill savings: As more utilities are moving from flat-rate to time-of-use (TOU) rates, or even dynamic rates, it becomes more expensive to use appliances in the morning and early evening. You can save hundreds of dollars in your monthly electricity bill by using power from your EV when the electricity price is high instead of buying electricity from the grid.
How and why did the two of you become so passionate about energy management and saving the planet?
The two of us came together because we both see climate change as the #1 threat to our future.
I’ll let 17-year-old me answer this. Back then, I wrote this in my MIT college essay:
My 15 years growing up in Guangzhou, a flourishing industrialized city in southeastern China, taught me that prosperity and technological advancement can take a devastating toll on the environment. While foreign magazines often praised the rapid rate at which the Chinese economy had grown since the late 70’s, as a child, I simply wanted the thick clouds of pollution to disperse so I could gaze at the stars in the night sky. Unfortunately, environmental degradation became all too common throughout the country. Eventually, I realized I wanted to do something to help reverse this trend.
30-year-old me feels just as strongly about reversing climate change as I did then. A critical step in reversing climate change is electrifying all the things (manufacturing, transportation, heating/cooling, etc). At the same time, our aging electric grid can barely handle all the existing loads during peak times, let alone all these future loads from electrification. EV seems like such an obvious answer to this problem and I want to help make this solution a reality.
I’ve always been driven by my work having a positive impact on the world. Global warming is one of the most prominent challenges of ours and future generations. Together, our energy system and transportation systems make one of the largest areas for how much we can influence our greenhouse gas output, thus making it my personal focus for making a positive impact.
Everyone has the power to manage their energy – both in the appliances they use in their home to the vehicles they choose to drive. I get excited about putting better tools in the hands of all energy users that empower them to make decisions that accelerate the impact we can make on saving the planet. I’ve spent over 15 years of my career in the energy space building and developing technologies and products that clean-up our energy system.