Duke Energy wants to access the energy stored in the F-150 Lightning pickups

As temperatures soar and demand for electricity follows, California recently asked consumers to turn air conditioning back on so it doesn’t overwhelm the state’s strained power grid and cause another round of blackouts. .

In an effort to prevent similar scenarios from happening in the future in fast-growing North Carolina, duke energy wants a little help from a former rural stalwart of Tar Heel, the pickup, packed with next-gen tech.

Utility giant partners with Ford to launch a pilot program offering owners of the auto company’s newest pick-up, the Lightning F-150an incentive to let Duke access the vehicle’s large battery power to augment the power grid during peak periods.

For a $25 per month discount on their lease payments, F-150 Lightning owners would allow Duke to draw power up to three times per month during peak hours of power consumption from their vehicles (EV) in summer and winter and once a month during the remaining months of the year for research purposes and support of the energy network during peak hours.

Duke Energy hopes to use the large batteries from the Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup to help provide supplemental power to the grid during peak periods.

“Duke Energy is building a smarter, more sustainable smart grid designed to meet growing energy demands,” Harry Sideris, executive vice president of customer experience, solutions and services at Duke, said in a statement announcing the program. pilot. “We are working to maximize the benefits and potential of electric vehicles for our customers – and initiatives like this can help reduce the cost of electric vehicles while supporting the grid during critical times.”

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Certain technology would be needed in the pickup and in the home to enable power sharing, called “vehicle-to-grid” (V2G) technology, and owners would need to be enrolled in Ford’s software package to participate in the pilot program , which is expected to launch next year.

Stan Cross, director of electric transportation policy at the Southern Clean Energy Alliance, said the idea of ​​miniature mobile power plants on wheels scattered across communities is appealing on many levels. Supplying power to the grid can reduce demand during peak usage and help balance power on the grid, reducing costs for all users. In addition, it increases the use of renewable energy by using untapped energy.

A charging port is present on the front of the new Ford F-150 Lightning.

“We need real-world projects to test and understand the network benefits that electric vehicles can deliver, and vehicle-to-grid technology is very promising,” Cross said. “This shows real possibilities and further potential value for electric vehicle consumers.”

Although not all electric vehicles are viable candidates for supplying power to the grid, medium and large electric vehicles like vans, trucks and buses have the extra battery capacity to give a boost. to the local network. Besides the F-150 Lightning, which has proven so popular that Ford has repeatedly extended production, other automakers, including GM and Rivian, are scrambling to bring electric pickup trucks to market that will offer advanced technology. two-way charging. Duke said it plans to add more vehicles to the program in future years.

According to his deposit with the NC Utilities Commission, Duke expects the pilot program to cost about $500,000. Initially, it will be available to up to 100 customers in Duke Energy Carolinas service area, which encompasses most of western North Carolina, including Charlotte and Piedmont.

Duke and Ford are collaborating on a free trial of small-scale research and development in Florida that will begin in 2023.

Officials hope that using the vehicle’s batteries during peak periods will allow Duke to avoid using other methods, such as returning to mothballed coal-fired power plants, to meet demand. The use of consumer-generated electricity is included in Duke’s carbon emissions reduction plan as part of the utility giant’s efforts to develop a “greener” power grid to meet the goals of government to reduce its carbon footprint by 2030.

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“I think there’s real potential, real value, and a possible revenue stream for EV owners if they can sell power back to the grid,” Cross said. “But as an electric vehicle owner, I need to be sure that it won’t damage my battery, reduce my battery’s performance, or damage it in any way.

“That’s what this program is going to tell us.”

If the pilot proves popular and feasible, Duke says it hopes to roll out a permanent program in a few years.

Journalist Gareth McGrath can be reached at [email protected] or @GarethMcGrathSN on Twitter. This story was produced with financial support from 1Earth Fund and the Prentice Foundation. The USA TODAY Network retains full editorial control of the work.

Robert M. Larson