Back in 1996, electric vehicles (EVs) weren’t much of a thing. The Prius had yet to be introduced, and wide-scale adoption of EVs seemed like the pipe dream of a handful of ambitious engineers. Willett Kempton, a professor at the University of Delaware, was one of those engineers. Kempton was thinking about how EVs would benefit from a more sophisticated and green energy grid. But he was also thinking about how the grid could benefit from EVs. Most vehicles, Kempton figured, aren’t in use for the greater part of the day. What if, when EVs were parked, they were plugged into a station where they could both be recharged and some of the energy stored in their batteries put back into the grid?
Gregory Poilasne, chairman and CEO of Nuvve, a global clean-tech company focusing on the intersection of the energy and transportation industries, puts it like this: “If you can make EV batteries bidirectional, they become grid-storage systems on wheels.” Poilasne met Kempton in 2010, and together they founded Nuvve, which quickly became a vehicle-to-grid (V2G) pioneer. It’s Nuvve’s innovative use of V2G technology that earned them a spot on Fast Company’s 2021 Next Big Things in Tech list.
AN INTEGRATED SYSTEM
“When William Kempton and I met, I was convinced about two things,” Poilasne says. “First, that renewable energy needs more storage”—because wind and solar energy sources stop producing when there’s no wind or sun—”and second, if EVs are going to help power the grid, they need to work together in an integrated system.” Nuvve’s V2G GIVe (Grid Integrated Vehicle) platform is such a system. The cloud-connected software precisely controls EV battery charging and discharging, allows EV batteries to store energy, including solar and wind, and can combine excess energy from multiple EVs to provide grid services or sell capacity back to the grid.
“V2G provides a two-way bridge between the electricity system and electric vehicles,” Poilasne says. “And we think it’s going to change the world.”
One way Nuvve is doing this is by moving children from diesel school buses into electric ones. The electrification of school buses is a goal shared by many policy makers, educators, and parents, but accomplishing it has proved logistically challenging and expensive. Nuvve’s V2G technology offers a way forward.
Electric school buses charge in the late afternoon and early evening after they’ve brought students home. That happens to be a time of peak energy use and rates, as families return home from school and work. It’s also the time when solar and wind energy production drops, as the sun goes down and nightly winds have yet to pick up. Nuvve’s V2G system allows school buses to put energy back into the grid exactly at this crucial time. Their batteries are then topped off later when rates are low.
Nuvve’s technology significantly reduces operating costs for school bus fleets, particularly in markets where energy can be sold back to the electricity system. What’s more, Nuvve reduces upfront costs by offering financing in partnership with the private equity firm Stonepeak Partners, in a joint venture called Levo. “The purpose of Levo is to provide a full turnkey solution, including financing, when a fleet decides to go electric,” Poilasne says. It’s a solution that will help the world transition to green energy and reduce its carbon emissions—all while doing the essential work of providing cleaner rides for kids.