California utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is expanding public testing of bidirectional EV charging with three new pilot programs encompassing up to 1,000 residential electricity customers and hundreds of commercial customers.

Each program will offer incentives to customers for participation, with "additional benefits" for those in disadvantaged communities, PG&E said in a press release. All three programs are expected to start in 2022 or 2023, and will continue until incentives run out, the utility said.

One program for residential customers will be open to up to 1,000 EV drivers with single-family homes. They'll receive at least $2,500 for enrolling and up to an additional $2,175 depending on their participation, PG&E said.

Hyundai Home

Hyundai Home

The utility will also run a pilot for business customers with up to 200 slots. Participating businesses will also receive at least $2,500 for enrolling, but up to $3,625 depending on their participation.

Finally, a "microgrid" pilot aims to see how well EVs can provide backup power during outages. This will primarily focus on medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicles, but could include light-duty vehicles as well, PG&E noted. Up to 200 participants will receive at least $2,500 for enrolling, and up to $3,750 after that.

These pilot programs are separate from studies PG&E is already running with Ford and, on a more limited basis, with General Motors.

Electric Island  -  Daimler Trucks North America and PGE  -  Portland OR

Electric Island - Daimler Trucks North America and PGE - Portland OR

Interest in bidirectional charging has been growing, and it's partly related to interest in solar. The concept has been discussed for years, but a lack of production vehicles capable of bidirectional charging has been an obstacle. That's starting to change, though.

The E-GMP platform that underpins the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 incorporates bidirectional charging. Volkswagen also plans to give its mass-market EVs, like the ID.4, bidirectional charging starting in 2022.

In California, the heat waves and wildfires have spurred rapid action on studying EV charging habits, and potentially using fleets of EVs to help stabilize the grid. But bidirectional charging is also being studied on a national level by the United States Department of Energy.