Already, a couple of options for electric car camaraderie exist. The first is the new Ioniq 5 by Hyundai, which can be ordered with ‘vehicle to load’ technology, known as V2L.
At one end of the scale, this uses the car’s battery pack and 800V system to power devices like laptops, as well as domestic appliances like televisions and mini fridges via a 240V socket – a feature shared by the Honda e.
But, more interestingly, the V2L system of the Ioniq 5 (a £365 optional extra) also has an external socket for charging other electric vehicles. Like the reverse wireless charging system of a smartphone employed to top up headphone batteries, the Ioniq 5 can donate some of its charge to help out almost any other EV.
We’re not talking Tesla Supercharger speeds here, of course, but it could help in an emergency. The V2L system delivers 3.6kW of power, which is the equivalent of a home charger or one of the slower public EV chargers. For context, the Ioniq 5’s own 73kWh battery takes about 16 hours to fill from 20 to 80 percent with a 3.6kW charger, adding range at a rate of 14 miles per hour.
You might not want to wait at the roadside for an hour or two charging up someone else’s car, but for giving a fellow EV driver some juice at a remote campsite we think it’s a great feature that all electric cars could benefit from.
It’s a clever system, but not an entirely new one. Chinese car manufacturer BYD debuted a vehicle-to-vehicle charging function on its e6 back in 2012. Ahead of its time perhaps, but the car’s 10kWh battery pack was tiny by today’s standards, and would only be able to donate a handful of miles to another vehicle before also running low.
When envisioning an idyllic future where EV drivers stop at the roadside to top up each other’s depleted batteries, we have to factor safety concerns into the mix. A car with a flat battery is unlikely to have stopped neatly in a parking bay, or on a quiet road with plenty of space for another car to park alongside. It could be on the hard shoulder of a motorway, stuck half-way across a busy junction, or, worst still, entirely exposed on the blind corner of a country road. Given EV charge cables are rarely more than a couple of metres long, parking two vehicles in such a location for the half-hour needed to top up the empty battery puts their drivers, and the drivers of approaching vehicles, at risk.
A more likely application of vehicle-to-vehicle charging is to share electricity that was sourced cheaply. Tom Callow, head of insight and external affairs at BP Pulse, says: “If you charged up your Ioniq 5 at very low cost at home on an off-peak domestic electricity tariff, you’ve got a load of cheap electricity sat in a battery. If you have friends or family over who need a charge to get home again, you charge them up cheaply and efficiently (in terms of grid demand), rather than them plugging into your home charger. When the electricity is cheap again at off-peak hours overnight, your car can be topped up again.”
Lastly, we have Rivian. The American EV startup is working on its debut vehicles in the form of the R1S SUV and R1T pick-up truck. For use in emergencies, these both have a tow-charging mode, where their batteries can be refilled when towed along the road by another vehicle. This takes advantage of the regenerative braking system of electric cars, where kinetic energy lost while coasting or braking is harvested and fed back into the battery.