To meet the challenges of increased energy demand, SWTCH Energy is partnering with Kite Mobility, using one of its rentable Nissan Leafs, to test V2G technology for the next two years at Tridel’s Bianca Condos in Toronto
SWTCH Energy, an end-to-end electric vehicle charging and energy management solution provider, has launched a two-year vehicle-to-grid (V2G) pilot project at a new multi-unit residential building in Toronto.
Toronto-based SWTCH is using a Nissan Leaf provided by Kite Mobility (also headquartered in Toronto) to test, monitor and evaluate the business case for SWTCH’s V2G and blockchain technology. Bianca Condos in midtown Toronto is hosting the SWTCH charging infrastructure in the building’s parking lot where the Leaf will be based.
“[This pilot] is all about validating the business case, ” says Thomas Martin, director of business development, SWTCH in an interview with Electric Autonomy Canada. “By putting this in a building in a pilot scenario, we’re able to get real data and actually have tangible datasets that we can then make decisions on for larger, wide-scale applications.”
SWTCH’s partners in the pilot have their own deep roots in the clean mobility space. Kite is focused on developing a sustainable transportation model that connects MURB residents to a fleet of electric cars and bikes available for rent on the property through the company’s app.
Additionally, since 2003, Tridel has worked to align its “development interest” with wider “environmental concerns” as part of the brand’s green platform.
“In terms of all these technologies and the trajectory that Tridel’s on, there are a few challenges that we’re seeing coming down the pipeline that these technologies may assist in addressing: power and access to power and being able to consume power more efficiently,” says Graeme Armster, director of innovation and sustainability at Tridel in an interview with Electric Autonomy.
As energy sources, cars and buildings transition to zero-emission, there will inevitably be a strain on the grid, says Armster. Aligning with Kite and SWTCH offers each of the three companies an opportunity to alleviate grid strain and generate benefits for each corporation.
“If we can offer solutions to move some of these [grid] peak times around by leveraging the battery in a car, to not only to be an energy source to get around, but as an energy source to feedback and offset some of these peaks, then we see that as getting twice the bang for your buck,” says Armster.
Unique opportunity with Kite
SWTCH’s pilot is expected to run for two years. What makes this project unique, says Martin, is that by partnering with Kite, the shared mobility company can guarantee the availability of the Leaf whenever SWTCH will need it.
“If you operate a fleet, you know between the hours of nine and five, for example, that your fleet is being used and then you can use V2G in-between” explains Martin. “But the problem with consumer vehicles is how do we know when you’re going to go out for a drive? Go to the grocery store or see your friends?”
For the pilot, Kite will control rental times for the Leaf. This will ensure vehicle availability during the grid’s peak times to allow SWTCH to discharge the stored energy from the vehicle into the building using a bidirectional charger.
This process is complex, says Martin, since it requires technology that can “ask [the car] how much energy can it give us.”
And then once the energy is released from the vehicle, the charger must budget enough time to ensure that the car is fully recharged before the next Kite rental booking.
“I think the one thing everyone discusses is where does V2G make sense? It may not make sense for private individual residents, but for shared mobility fleets, it does,” says Martin.
“We’re rolling out a series of these projects and collecting data over the next two years, to show that this is feasible today. It’s not something we have to wait for – it’s something we’re doing today.”
Tridel’s leadership in sustainable developments
By purpose-building the V2G technology into Bianca, Tridel is looking to be a leader in sustainable developments and technologies.
“Tridel has always taken a position in the industry, especially on the sustainability side, of being a leader and they want to continue being a leader,” says Armster. “With new technologies sometimes there can be a risk. But if we do it the right way the risks can be managed and, ultimately, we’ll learn something.”
Tridel says they are interested to share what they learn from the pilot with their competitors in the industry.
“It’s important for our economy for everyone to succeed and it’s under that logic that we want to continue to be first and leaders in the industry,” says Armster. “For the longest time vehicles have just been vehicles, but with the vehicle-to-grid technology we can turn them into something more. Anytime that you can reuse something, or use something for multiple uses, it just adds to the economics and the cost viability of that solution.”
Tridel is already planning to build V2G technology into its future developments, but there are still a few barriers to overcome which will dictate the timeline.
One of those barriers, says Armster, is that there are currently only two vehicles in the market — the Nissan Leaf and the Ford F-150 Lightning — that have V2G capabilities.
“We don’t want to put infrastructure in if there aren’t the tools to use that infrastructure,” says Armster. “It’ll be a bit of us balancing what makes sense in terms of future-proofing buildings, along with demand from our customers as a result of what’s going on in the EV manufacturers world. Right now to outfit a whole building with electric vehicle chargers that have big capabilities doesn’t quite make sense, but it may make sense in two years from now or three years from now.”
Kite’s business model
Along with the Nissan Leaf, Kite is also providing the residents of Bianca access to two Tesla Model 3s and eight ebikes, which can be rented out either through a pay-per-use or monthly subscription model. These vehicles are not part of SWTCH’s V2G pilot project.
Part of Kite’s innovative business model is to centralize access to electric mobility and bring options inside the building where people live in order to make using an EV as convenient and easy as possible.
“One of the barriers [to using electric mobility] is that people are a little bit nervous trying stuff in a public environment. But if it’s a private amenity, like a new piece of gym equipment and it’s in their building, they’ll go and try it for the first time,” says Scott Macwilliam, founder of Kite in an interview with Electric Autonomy.
At Kite, the goal is to reduce carbon emissions, but also traffic congestion on roads. That is why they offer fleets of e-bikes too, says Macwilliam. By making access to these Kite mobility options easy and convenient, he adds that he hopes it will help to change people’s behaviours and move away from the reflex of jumping into a car to get around.