NEWS

What’s Bidirectional Charging and Which EVs Offer It?

ford-f-150-2022-lightning-solar-charging-black-exterior-truck 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning | Manufacturer image

The reasons shoppers might opt for an electric vehicle are manifold — environmental concerns, avoiding the hassle (and cost) of the gas station or getting the latest tech features are a few motivating factors. Though still in its infancy, bidirectional charging may soon bring even more benefits for owners and EV infrastructure. This emerging technology aims to put an EV’s battery to work, whether it’s to power a home during an outage or send power back to the grid en masse. Read on to learn what bidirectional charging is, which vehicles offer it today and what the future holds.

Related: What Is Level 1, 2, 3 Charging?

What Is Bidirectional Charging?

Most EVs currently use unidirectional charging, a process in which alternating current electricity is taken from the grid and converted to direct current to charge the car’s battery.

Bidirectional charging, on the other hand, turns charging into a two-way street: Electricity can flow from the grid to charge the vehicle, or it can flow from the EV back into the grid or into a home, office building or appliance. With bidirectional charging, DC power must be converted back to AC through a dedicated charger or an inverter within the vehicle itself.

V2G, V2H, V2L: What’s the Difference?

hyundai-ioniq-5-2022-oem-02-angle--exterior--rear--silver.jpg 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 | Manufacturer image

Bidirectional charging enables vehicle-to-grid (V2G) and vehicle-to-home (V2H) charging. As EV adoption grows, V2G aims to supply substantial amounts of electricity from vehicle batteries to balance energy demands. Additionally, the technology can optimize energy usage based on the time of day and utility costs; for example, during peak energy usage times, EVs can be used to return power to the grid, and they can be charged during off-peak times at a lower cost.

Meanwhile, V2H takes the energy from the vehicle’s battery and uses it to power a home or building. This lessens the demand on the grid, and it can act as a backup during a power outage. V2H can also offer potential savings if the EV can supply power to the home during peak hours when utility rates are highest.

A third type of charging, vehicle-to-load (V2L), allows the vehicle to provide AC power to charge home appliances and large electronic devices; unlike the preceding methods, however, V2L does not require a dedicated bidirectional charger. Instead, it uses an integrated inverter to send power to the device.

According to Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions, the value of bidirectional charging will be realized in the coming years as more EVs offer the technology and the infrastructure is better able to support it.

“By the end of this decade, this will be the norm rather than a special feature,” Fiorani wrote in an email to Cars.com. “As more and more homes and apartments are built or upgraded to integrate vehicle charging, the benefits will be obvious, especially after a power outage where a refrigerator, sump pump or other necessary item needs to run.”

EVs With Bidirectional Charging

While the potential benefits of bidirectional charging are numerous, the EVs that offer the capability today remain limited. Currently, only the Nissan Leaf and Ford F-150 Lightning offer V2G and V2H, respectively. V2L is available in the Hyundai Ioniq 5, the related Kia EV6 and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. For Hyundai, the technology serves as a gateway to more advanced bidirectional charging as the automaker pilots V2G capability software overseas.

Nissan Leaf

nissan-leaf-2023-038-compact-exterior-front-angle-sedan-white 2023 Nissan Leaf | Manufacturer image

Nissan has recently approved a V2G bidirectional charging system for the model-year 2013 or newer Leaf through a partnership with service provider Fermata Energy. When the EV is plugged into the Fermata Energy charger, the charger monitors the building’s electric load and can use the Leaf’s battery to power the building when energy demand and costs are highest. The technology is currently designed for commercial buildings and fleet vehicles, but the automaker says it’s actively working on making it available for residential use.

Ford F-150 Lightning

ford-f-150-lightning-lariat-2022-17-exterior-front-angle-dynamic-towing 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

Unlike the Leaf’s V2G charging, which is targeted toward fleets, the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning offers V2H for individual owners through its available Intelligent Backup Power charging system. Using an 80-amp charger with up to 131 kilowatt-hours of electric energy storage, the system can power an average home for up to three days with normal charge, or up to 10 days when rationed, according to the automaker’s estimates. The charging station is included with the extended-range F-150 Lightning or can be purchased for the standard-range Lightning. A home integration system for IBP is provided by Ford’s solar energy partner, Sunrun; the cost of the hardware is $3,895 and installation costs vary by location.

Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6

2022 Kia EV6 2022 Kia EV6 | Manufacturer image

The 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 each offer V2L capability with high-current outlets that can power appliances or provide backup power when needed. Their shared vehicle platform uses an Integrated Charging Control Unit that supplies up to 3.6 kilowatts of power to charge large items like electric bikes or camping equipment. According to the automaker, the system can operate a 55-inch television and air conditioner simultaneously for over 24 hours. Appliances can be plugged into a 220-volt plug below the vehicle’s rear seats, or an adapter can be used in conjunction with the external plug.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

mitsubishi-outlander-phev-2023-exterior-front-angle-oem 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV | Manufacturer image

Although a plug-in hybrid rather than a pure EV, the 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV’s range-topping GT trim offers standard V2L charging with two standard 120-volt AC power outlets inside that supply 1.5 kW of power for camping gear or household appliances.

More From Cars.com:

The Future: V2X

In addition to the above examples, many EV manufacturers are actively working to adopt vehicle-to-everything (V2X) capability, which integrates all of the bidirectional charging types outlined above. Hyundai is running two pilot programs in Europe to test V2G charging software on modified versions of the Ioniq 5; luxury EV manufacturer Lucid says it will soon offer bidirectional charging for the Lucid Air; in 2021, Volkswagen promised to add bidirectional charging to all ID models equipped with a 77-kWh battery; and in April, Automotive News reported Ford, GM and Lucid joined the Department of Energy’s coalition as part of an effort to design a plan for widespread V2X infrastructure.

lucid-air-2022-03-bronze-dynamic-exterior-front-angle-sedan 2022 Lucid Air | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

According to Fiorani, once bidirectional charging becomes mainstream, it will revolutionize how EV owners utilize their vehicles. “This is a feature that will be necessary for all EVs eventually,” he notes. “Currently, people think of their cars and [pickup] trucks as separate from their homes — they’re just a method to get to work or to the store. But EVs will become more integrated into owners’ lives just as their phones have become over the last 20 years.”

Related Video:

Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

Latest expert reviews