Duke Energy wants to pilot using F-150 batteries to supply the grid

Duke Energy has asked state regulators to approve a test that would allow the utility to draw energy from electric vehicle batteries to the power grid during times of peak demand.

Duke announced a deal with Ford on Tuesday to test the idea with North Carolina customers who lease Ford F-150 Lightning pickup trucks. The pilot program would cost $500,000 and allow Duke to gather data to develop a possible permanent program for two-way energy flows, or what's called "vehicle to grid integration."

"This gives us an opportunity to test those bi-directional flows out: charging the battery, obviously, and then discharging it back into the grid - testing out all that technology," said Harry Sideris, a Duke vice president for customer experience, solution and services.

"But also, just as importantly, testing out the customer behaviors and the communication that it's going to take … to let them know when we're going to be using their batteries when we're not going to be charging their vehicles and those type of things," he said.

Here's how it would work: While your truck is plugged into your home charger, Duke would be able to reverse the flow to send electricity onto the grid. Customers would have to agree to let Duke take the power. And they'd need Ford-supplied devices that connect the vehicle batteries to their homes - and to the grid. In exchange, Ford would reduce monthly lease payments by about $25 to compensate owners for electricity used.

"Over the course of the lease, that is going to be a little bit over $1,000. So pretty meaningful deduction for the customer to utilize their battery a couple of times a month," Sideris said.

Sideris said Duke expects to draw power only a few times a month during the trial, which is limited to 100 vehicles. Duke and Ford opted to use leased vehicles only because they'll be limited by the length of leases, Sideris said.

There are lots of unanswered questions for Duke: Will customers be connected to their chargers at times when energy is most needed? What's the best way to signal that Duke will draw power, such as by email or text? Will customers want to give Duke control of their chargers?

The program still must be approved by the North Carolina Utilities Commission.

Regulators already have approved another kind of electric vehicle charging pilot program. Duke's "managed charging pilot" would charge customers a flat monthly fee to charge their vehicles, in exchange for giving Duke the right and ability to decide when a car can charge. A spokesman said Duke is still setting up the program and no start date has been announced.

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