A California bill requiring two-way charging in all electric vehicles has been defeated in the state Assembly

A bill introduced in the California Legislature that would have required all electric vehicles sold in the state to be equipped with two-way charging technology has died in the state House.

Bi-directional charging allows electric vehicle owners to turn their vehicles into virtual power plants, not only absorbing energy to move the vehicle but also returning it to their homes during power outages, known as vehicle-to-home, or V2H, or to the utility grid during peak hours, known as “vehicle-to-home, or V2H.” Vehicle-to-grid communication, or V2G.

California State Senator Nancy Skinner introduced SB-233 in January. The measure, which was scheduled to take effect in 2027, won Senate approval by a wide margin of 29-9. However, the two-way mandate was abolished in the Assembly committee, leaving only a condition for further study of the issue.

Senator Skinner said she decided not to go ahead.

With California’s decision to ban the sale of gas-powered cars in 2035, Senator Skinner told CNET that her goal is to create a level playing field for future car buyers.

“Mandates are often a way to ensure that manufacturers can’t put a premium price on a feature, or just make it available in luxury models, because everyone should have it,” the senator told CNET before SB-233’s defeat. “This bill takes that concern — that two-way capability would make a vehicle much more expensive — off the table.”

In a follow-up, Senator Skinner said her office will look for “a new path forward to ensure that all EV owners in California can tap into the potential of EVs to be a mini power station on wheels.”

Among those who opposed the bill was the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which includes automakers, battery producers, semiconductor suppliers and developers of self-driving vehicles. In a letter, Curt Augustine, AAI’s director of state affairs, said SB-233 only requires compliance from automakers, not utility companies.

“(This) will not guarantee that two-way charging will occur, or even be possible,” Augustine wrote. “There are a number of additional elements that need to be in place… including electrical grid capabilities, communications standards and off-the-shelf two-way adapters on the chargers.”

Augustine also noted that to accommodate the larger battery and the necessary hardware and software, making a two-way electric car would raise its price by as much as $3,700.

Currently, there are only a few cars that are truly two-way enabled in the United States, most notably the Nissan Leaf. Energy companies are still figuring out how to pay customers to sell electricity back while ensuring that excess electricity upstream doesn’t overwhelm the grid.

“Utilities have to know what they’re doing with technology and infrastructure,” said Orville Thomas, policy director at CalStart, a nonprofit that promotes advanced transportation technology. “Just saying, ‘OK, your cars are in your two-way area, and it will solve the problem,’ is not going to save us from a power outage.”

CalStart tried to have a conversation about the true costs of bidirectionalism before introducing SB-233, “but it really seems like this has been advanced,” Thomas said.

He supports the dual trend “as part of a list of possible solutions,” but does not see it as a silver bullet to meet growing energy demand.

Regardless, demand for two-way charging has increased: BMW, Volvo, and Porsche are all testing the feature, and Kia said the 2024 EV9 will be V2G capable. In August, GM announced that all of its electric vehicles would be two-wheel drive by 2026. Tesla confirmed that it would be standard in its lineup by 2025.

Jigar Shah, director of the Energy Department’s Office of Loan Programs, expressed confidence that two-way shipping will be industry-wide within the next year or two.

“Customers are increasingly saying, ‘My friend’s electric car does it, so how come mine doesn’t?’” Shah said at the Renewable Energy Conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday. “I wouldn’t be surprised if every electric car shipped in the next year has the capability built into it, even if the car company hasn’t opened it up yet.”

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