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SA’s load-shedding woes answered thanks to Volvo

Load-shedding woes could be a thing of the past for South Africans in future – if they drive a Volvo. That’s because certain Volvo models will feature bi-directional charging – meaning they can be used to power a home, as well as electric devices.

The first such Volvo – the fully electric EX90 – will be revealed on November 9.

According to Greg Maruszewski, Managing Director of Volvo Car South Africa, bi-directional charging is especially significant to South Africans – because of load shedding. “This South African challenge means that our customers will be especially receptive to a feature such as this,” he points out.

With bi-directional charging, electric cars can have the potential to contribute to an easing of this strain while plugged in – and, together with many other electric cars, they can form a virtual powerplant. “Paired with smart-charging capabilities coming to the Volvo Cars smartphone app, the Volvo EX90 will allow motorists to charge their cars when demand from the grid is low and save that stored energy to be used later. ‘Later’ could obviously mean when load shedding kicks in,” explains Maruszewski.

Practically, during load shedding, the Volvo EX90 could power any appliances in a home – from power tools to a music system.

Initially becoming available in selected markets, bi-directional charging has the potential to make energy utilisation cheaper, more efficient and sustainable.

“With the Volvo EX90 you can power your life,” says Head of Electrification Ecosystem Olivier Loedel. “You could use its battery in many ways, from topping up your electric bike when you’re out and about, to hooking up an outdoor cooking appliance for your weekend camping trip. It could even power your house during the expensive peak hours of the day.”

Along with being able to charge appliances and other devices, your car will ultimately have the capability to lend a helping hand and give some of its charge to other compatible Volvos. On the flip side, if you’re about to run out of juice, don’t worry. You can accept the same help from other Volvo cars as well.

Where available, the entire charging process will be automatic and managed entirely by the smart charging functionality in the Volvo Cars app. The underlying algorithm also makes sure that you charge and discharge the battery in a limited way, reducing the risk of avoidable battery degradation.

Depending on rules specific to each energy market, bi-directional charging could also allow customers to support the grid in different ways. This could include taking in more energy during times when there’s a surplus of renewable energy, or selling energy back during peak usage hours when there is more demand. If most cars have this functionality in the future, then the grid could be balanced more often. That could increase the overall sustainability of the grid by reducing potential energy waste from renewable sources at times when production outperforms demand.

“We believe in a future where our customers can support the grid using this technology, enabling a more efficient and sustainable use of electricity in everyday life,” says Loedel.

Maruszewski says Volvo plans to offer the hardware needed to start using bi-directional charging features, including an advanced wall box and home energy management system. “Other accessories such as adapter plugs for appliances and cables for charging other cars will also be available. The bi-directional charging offer will initially be launched in selected markets. When South Africa is one of those markets, this will be communicated to local customers,” he concludes.