With fuel prices currently soaring, many motorists’ thoughts would be turning to electric vehicles (EVs) with their promise of cheap “fuel”.
Of course, EVs are still expensive to buy, and while cheaper Chinese EVs entering the market promises to put downward pressure on those prices, they still have some way to go.
At the moment, the cheapest EV on the market is the MG ZS EV, which has a drive-away price of $46,990.
That’s cheap compared to other EVs, yet it’s still way higher than its base model internal combustion “brother”, the MG ZS Excite, at $22,990.
The MG ZS EV’s price is likely to be undercut soon by another Chinese offering from BYD, but it’s unlikely to be drastically cheaper.
While the price of EVs is heading down, if you were to buy an EV currently, you would still be paying a big up-front premium for lower running costs and that warm inner glow from knowing you’re helping the planet.
For most people this equation still doesn’t add up.
But that’s likely to change for some people with the introduction of bi-directional charging.
The technology has just been approved in Australia and will soon become available.
So what is it exactly? Well with a regular EV the electricity all goes one way. You plug your vehicle in, charge it up and drive it.
However, some EVs will allow you to use the vehicle’s battery to plug in appliances and run them.
Bi-directional charging takes that one step further by letting you use your EVs battery to power your house (V2H – Vehicle to House), or even plug into the electricity grid (V2G – Vehicle to Grid).
In effect your EV becomes a battery on wheels, and one with approximately three times the capacity of most household batteries on the market. You would be able to run your house from it, possibly for days.
For homeowners with solar panels that’s a very tempting prospect, allowing for radically reduced electricity bills, and possibly earning a little extra by selling power back to the grid.
If that sounds like you then by now you may be thinking “bloody ripper! I could run the car and the house for next to nothing! What’s not to like?”
Well settle down, because there’s a catch, or a couple of them as it happens.
Firstly, there’s only one vehicle on the Australian market right now that’s capable of handling bi-directional charging, and that’s the Nissan Leaf, so your choice is very limited.
Secondly, while the bi-directional DC charger technology that goes into your house has now been approved, and will soon be available, it’s not exactly cheap at approximately $10,000.
Having said that, a Tesla Powerwall 2 will set you back about the same amount, and the Nissan Leaf’s battery offers roughly three times the Powerwall’s capacity.
Depending on your circumstances bi-directional charging could tip the equation in favour of buying, or leasing, an EV for your next vehicle.
Many analysts are predicting that EVs will reach price parity with internal combustion vehicles by around the second half of this decade.
For many people with solar panels on their roof bi-directional charging could bring that EV tipping point quite a bit sooner though.
For me that tipping point’s already here. All I have to do is convince my partner that the two of us really do need a ute, a sports car, a motorbike and a Nissan Leaf+.