Toyota announced that it will work with Oncor, a Texas-based electric utility, on car-to-grid technology that could compete with Tesla’s virtual power plant.
The Tesla Powerwall has sparked renewed interest in Tesla energy products since its launch. The battery’s easy operation and obvious benefits to consumers have attracted numerous customers. This interest, in turn, has attracted new competitors, such as Toyota, which announced its own energy saving solutions this year. Toyota has now doubled down and will collaborate with a Texas electric utility to offer customers vehicle-to-grid technology.
While Toyota’s vehicle-to-grid solution may sound quite different from Tesla’s PowerWall and associated Virtual Power Plant (VPP), the products sound familiar after reading the Japanese auto giant’s press release. The proposed new offering would allow customers to send their energy, in this case, from their cars, back to the grid during times of high demand or grid loss.
Toyota emphasizes that initially, this offering will be a pilot research program that will lead to a more comprehensive system, “[allowing] Toyota and Oncor may be better prepared to support the expanding EV charging ecosystem in the US.” The system will be tested at Oncor’s grid testing facility south of Dallas, Texas. Shortly thereafter, in 2023, another public testing phase began within Oncor’s service area in Texas.
Toyota did not specify when the program would be available for wider release or whether the program would depend on contracting with utility companies. However, if Toyota’s program is anything like Tesla’s VPP program in Texas, each case may require some cooperation with the local utility provider.
“We envision a future where Toyota BEVs provide a best-in-class mobility experience, but our customers can use them to power their homes, their communities or even the electric grid when needed,” said Christopher Young, Toyota Electric Vehicles. Group Vice President of the Charging Solutions Team. “Our collaboration with Oncor is an important step for us to understand the needs of utilities, as we plan to work closely with them to ensure that every community can transition to Toyota’s electrified vehicles.”
While the Toyota V2G program isn’t a perfect competitor to Tesla VPP, especially considering the car can’t always be plugged into the grid, it may be able to offer a reasonably similar experience at a lower price point. And even better, it could also be a system that could be implemented in urban areas, such as parking garages, where a group of vehicles could help stabilize the nearby grid.
Vehicle-to-grid technology is a promising new feature that will attract countless customers as they transition to electric vehicles. As shown by the Ford F150 Lightning’s car-to-load capacity, customers are willing to pay for the extra capacity, especially if they don’t have to buy a secondary battery like the Tesla Powerwall. It will be interesting to see how Toyota’s new program affects buyers in the coming years.
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