FREEING ENERGY

Podcast 062: Loren McDonald – Could the new Ford electric pickup truck disrupt the century-old electric grid?

Host Bill Nussey talks with Loren McDonald, founder of EV Adoption and leading consultant in the electric vehicle arena. Loren and Bill take a drive through the unexpected twists and turns that EVs will face in reshaping our electric grid. With hundreds of billions being invested, the implications of electric vehicles goes so much further than cleaner transportation.

Here are a few of the insights from Loren…

.“… EVs are more than just cars, they’re actually mobile energy storage devices.”


“It’s not just about saving the planet, It’s also about fundamental economics, it’s actually saving money, it’s commercial businesses, seeing that they can reduce costs by tapping into that mobile storage. 


“Instead of kids doing pizza delivery, they’ll borrow mom’s Rivian with a 140 kilowatt hour battery and drive to their neighbors and say, ‘Hey, I’ll reduce your peak energy costs right now, let me plug in and power your house.'”


You can also listen to this podcast and others in our series on these platforms:

Bill Nussey and Dr. Jemma Green during the recording of the podcast

Useful Links

EV Adoption Website

EV Adoption  – 2018 Article on the future of electric vehicles. Excellent market snapshot and potential in the local energy arena

RMI article on EV’s and Grid

Freeing Energy article, “How electric utilities will drive over the electric monopolies: Part 2”

Interstitial Links

Growth in Energy Storage

SPG Quote

DOE Fact Sheet on Strategic Review

Clean Technica Article on DOE Announcement

DOE on Domestic Battery Production

Big oil and Utilities  jumping in on  the EV Market (See partners behind this effort in Detroit)

Transcript

Bill Nussey:

Hi, I’m Bill Nussey and I am the Founder of the Free Energy Project and I am your host for today’s podcast. Today, we are going to talk about disruptions. And what I mean by disruptions is truly game-changing technologies whose impacts extend beyond just the markets they’re intended for. You think about Uber and Lyft, who are just these little apps on your iPhone, but yet they completely disrupted the taxi industry. These are my personal favorites when it comes to the business world of innovation and disruption. And I think there’s a big one coming, and hopefully after today, you’ll agree that the world is probably going to change.

Bill Nussey:

Now, on their own, electric vehicles are a huge trend. It’s reshuffling the entire incumbent automaker industry, creating a new set of winners and losers. You don’t have to look even an inch a side to see that Tesla is the early mind share winner in this and also the early market share winner. But a lot of companies are not content to let that lie and that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Bill Nussey:

But what’s really exciting about this for all of us in the world of local energy, is that electric vehicles are going to reshape the grid. They’re going to become an integral two-way part of the grid in a way that most people aren’t really thinking about. And there’s been no larger piece of news in the electric vehicle world at this point of intersection than Ford’s new F150 truck they call it The Lightning. A fully plugin pickup truck by our perennial favorite automaker Ford. And so to really understand what this means, I reached out to my good friend and EV market guru, Loren MacDonald. Loren is the founder and CEO of EV Adoption and I’m excited to welcome you today. Thanks for joining us, Loren.

Loren McDonald:

Great. Thanks Bill, really excited to talk about this topic. As you said, it’s not just the Ford F-150, but sort of the whole trend of leveraging batteries and electric vehicles is truly game changing and goes well beyond, which we’re going to get into, how EVs are more than just cars, they’re actually sort of mobile energy storage devices. So really excited to be on your podcast today.

Bill Nussey:

Thank you, thank you. So Lauren, let’s just jump into the Ford 150. I mean this is not just another EV announcement, this is the first formal recognition for me that EVs are so much more than just transportation. So kind of set the stage for us. What is so significant about this particular electric vehicle? Why are people calling it maybe one of the first real threats to a Tesla’s dominance?

Loren McDonald:

Yeah Bill, I mean, it’s fundamentally what Ford is doing is they’re taking a very different tack that most of the other automakers have done. You’ve talked a lot already about Tesla. If you think about where we are in sort of EV adoption, especially in the US, the initial wave of EVs were sort of targeted to two different sort of customer types, right? There’s sort of higher income, early adopters who either really fancied being able to drive a fast cool car and sort of stand out in their neighborhood, right? That sort of conspicuous consumption idea, but also maybe being able to show their neighbors that they actually cared about the planet at the same time. As I always like to joke, when your neighbors would see me in your Tesla, right, they would know that you probably did an IPO, but you also may have solar on your roof and actually cared about the planet a little bit.

Loren McDonald:

What Ford did, as we said, they understand the truck and the pickup buyer better than anyone. And so what their engineers did, which was brilliant, is they sat down and they said, “What are the needs of our customer?” And they focus particularly on sort of not just commercial, but people that use a truck as part of their work, as sort of part of their daily means of earning a living. And so they basically said, “How do we take the capabilities that a battery powered electric vehicle provide us? And how do we translate that into amazing features for our customers that use a truck, not just to drive to the office, but use it in their sort of daily work? And so what Ford did, Bill, that was truly game changing is they literally, even though they use the same body, if you will, they redesigned the truck from the ground up to take advantage of that battery storage capability.

Loren McDonald:

So the first thing they did is they understood, especially with the things going on in California right now, with heat waves and the Texas freeze last year, they understand that that battery power allows you to basically power your home when the power goes out, right? So the first thing they did is basically designed it so you can tap in. You do need an additional inverter, right? So it requires some additional basic equipment and, and purchase but you have to get a special inverter so that you can transfer that energy into your house and power it, in the case of the Ford F-150, they say up to three days, which is hopefully longer than most of us will have to sit through a power outage, whether it’s from the freeze or the heat wave. But the first and foremost, they sort of tapped into this awareness of what’s happening in sort of special markets in the country with that sort of being able to tap into the battery power.

Loren McDonald:

The second thing was taking it to that sort of more practical everyday use. They literally have 11 outlets on the F1…

Bill Nussey:

11.

Loren McDonald:

11. Yes. And there’s some inside, there some which we’ll talk about in a second, the frunk, and just sort of all around it. And so if you think about, again, these sort of commercial/construction type users who are using the truck as part of the sort of daily work, the ability to not have to fire up a gas, portable generator, lug it around, fill it up with gas, transfer it to the ground, all those different things. You basically can plug in just sort of several power tools, right, and run your equipment directly from your pickup. And so it truly is, it’s that idea that you and I, Bill, have been talking about for years, the idea that that electric vehicles are, are truly sort of mobile energy storage devices, right?

Loren McDonald:

And then sort of the third piece of that is the frunk, right? So because you don’t have a big gas engine in the front of your vehicle, there’s a lot of extra space in there and there’s this space upfront, you open up the hood and there’s a space you can store stuff in. But what Ford did is they basically designed the whole front end of the truck and so there’s like an insane amount of storage space up there that you can put all those tools and different things in it. But again, they put in plugs and outlets up there. So whether it’s tailgating parties or again sort of powering up power tools and things like that, they literally designed the vehicle to take advantage of all those things. And then sort of the coup d’etat of all of it is understanding that these type of owners of vehicles care about what we like to call total cost of ownership, TCO, right?

Loren McDonald:

The idea that what most of us don’t think about with sort of our passenger cars, we think about, what is our monthly payment, right? What can we sort of afford to buy. Whereas sort of fleet owners, commercial owners, and stuff they’re going to probably hold onto that truck for 10, 12 years. And so they actually care about the cost to their business of basically maintaining that. And electric vehicles have literally require almost no maintenance. As we like to joke, “The only thing that you need to replace electric cars is the windshield wipers and tires and the wiper fluid, maybe occasionally brakes, but even probably not so much there.” So anyway, I know that was a lot, Bill, but fundamentally, I see those as sort of the four sort of foundational game-changers with the F-150.

Bill Nussey:

That’s a great explanation, actually. And I think the fact that Ford is probably taken one of the boldest moves to address very traditional and particularly traditional pickup truck buyers and the market will tell us whether they’ve succeeded. But I have a 20, 22 year old Ford 150, and it runs like a tank and I can pull things with it and I have an expectation for that vehicle that Ford, I think is off to a good start meeting and the new electric vehicle. And I might have to get one, we’ll see, we’ll see. I love the idea that the Ford 150 Lightning.

Loren McDonald:

Yeah. And just to sort of add on. So in addition to sort of those fundamental capabilities made available from the battery, as you’ve pointed out, is this is the number one selling vehicle, right. So when we think about, we’ve to date over the last sort of 10, 11 years of sort of what I call the modern era of electric vehicles in the U S is they’ve been mostly sort of a fringe vehicle, right. They’ve sort of been again for the sort of early adopters and while the Tesla Model 3 and now Model Y is starting to climb the sales charts, it’s fundamentally still that sort of coastal early adopter market. Whereas, what Ford has done is they’ve taken iconic vehicles, the Mustang, right? They’ve taken the Mustang and were not afraid to say we’re also going to take that brand, that pony, right, and also make it electric.

Loren McDonald:

And then they took their, their franchise, the F-150 right? And basically not afraid to take that to the marketplace to people that live in North Dakota, right? Sort of the people that are not buying EVs and saying, “This is actually better than the gas version, right, you can do so much.” So they literally have been bold not just from the sort of the features, but in taking their most iconic vehicles and in essence risking what it’s going to do sort of to the market and to the brand. And so I think that in of itself is huge. They’re basically saying to the market, “EVs are for everybody.”

Bill Nussey:

When we talk about plugging in the car, I think the utilities are excited about it because it represents probably one of the few serious growth opportunities for selling more electricity in a marketplace that’s largely stagnant. And I think from that point of view, there’s a lot of, the electric utilities are leaning into it. But the opportunities for utilities are way more interesting than just selling more electricity and the whole notion of what they call V2G or Vehicle to Grid. So tell us what is V2G and why are utilities excited about doing more than just selling additional electrons?

Loren McDonald:

So V2G stands for Vehicle to Grid. And what that allows the utilities to do is basically to tap into that stored energy in your electric vehicle and tap into it when it’s of most need. So if you look at right now, Bill, we’re out here in California and Portland, places like that, we’re in the sort of massive heat waves, right? So in the evening time, 6:00, 7:00 at night, everybody’s powering up their air conditioners, right? That is when the utilities are seeing, the highest amount of use of electricity. And so the opportunity, one opportunity with vehicle to grid is basically for the utilities to be able to access your battery when it’s of most need so that they don’t have to fire up those peaker plants and things like that and minimize the chance of power outages and things. So fundamentally Vehicle to Grid, it helps with sort of the grid reliability, helps minimize the need to add additional sort of power plants for this sort of peak times and provide some stability overall. And hopefully, at the end of it, lower rates as well for all of us as consumers because of, so there’s reduced costs.

Bill Nussey:

I think there’s a lot more to the V2G story. So take us a few layers deeper and what else this means for the future of vehicles connecting to grids?

Loren McDonald:

Yeah. There’s several aspects to it, Bill. We’ve already talked about V2G, Vehicle to Grid, and so there’s several other aspects to that. One is Vehicle to Home, V2H, Vehicle to Building, V2B. And now Hyundai has come out with V2L, Vehicle to load. But so let’s go back and sort of unpack some of those. So the first is let’s start with Vehicle to Home. So really the idea there, Bill is, we’ve sort of touched on it with Vehicle to Grid where the utility is basically tapping into that battery when they most need it, for example, in that sort of 6:00 to 8:00 period of time, they’re doing smart charging, allowing or incentivizing us to only charge at certain times of the day. But ultimately, I think the dream for people like me and you is what we’ve talked about with the Ford F-150 is the ability to actually power the house. And sort of first and foremost, that’s going to be those times when the power goes out and things like that.

Loren McDonald:

But it also in sort of the future, as the automakers become less concerned about degradation of the battery, so allowing us to use that battery more than just a couple of times a year, but allowing us to use it sort of more frequently, our cars will probably be AI machine learning powered, right? It’ll control actually who uses the energy in our battery when? Optimize the grid, what our trips is planned for the next day, the price of electricity, et cetera. So we might come home after plugging in and charging from solar power at work, right? And it’s very popular here in the Bay Area where I am in Northern California, in Silicon valley, where you might drive to work and there’d be solar canopies, right? And so you might plug in, charge your battery during the day while your car, and your employer might give that to you for free. So you charge your car for free during the day, unplug, drive home, dock into your house. This is my vision of the future Bill, so you literally sort of dock like your iPhone, right? And the software would take over and understand where should that energy, that stored energy, go at that particular time.

Speaker 1:

Big things are happening in the electric vehicle and home energy storage world. The space is growing fast. Earlier this year, the strategic research from Bloomberg NEF, forecast a 122% increase in global energy storage from 2018 through 2040. But is the United States ready to make the batteries needed for this transition. On June 8th of this year, President Biden ordered the immediate launch of a 100 day review to develop a strategic process, which will address vulnerabilities and opportunities in the supply chain of four key products, including advanced batteries. In a fact sheet about the order, the DOE notes, “Advanced high capacity batteries play an integral role in 21st century technologies that are critical to the clean energy transition and national security capabilities around the world. From electric vehicles to stationary energy storage to defense applications, demand for these products is set to grow as supply chain constraints, geopolitical and economic competition and other vulnerabilities are increasing as well. National labs are already hard at work on some of the core supply chain issues and various DOE agencies are funding even more research into the homegrown underlying technologies, supporting the focus on energy storage.”

Speaker 1:

Outside of the DOE, who are some of the big players behind all the attention on storage? It might surprise you to learn that big oil, gas and car makers are jumping in on the bandwagon too. In the last four years, global oil and gas companies have branched into new sectors ramping up investments in the power sector, low carbon technologies and mobility as they respond to intensifying climate campaigning that has also spurred activism among their traditional investors. British Petroleum and Shell Oil are just two names jumping in on the act. Ford also raised its total spending on electrification to more than $30 billion by 2025. This includes investments in battery technology, development and production. The handwriting is on the wall and the opportunities for innovation abound. Will your next idea be a part of this success story? Now let’s get back to Bill and Loren to hear even more. And don’t forget to check out the links in this episode’s show notes on freeingenergy.com

Loren McDonald:

Bill, our conversation today about the F-150 being game changing and things like Vehicle to Building is what fundamentally is the shift here? It’s not just about saving the planet, if you will, if that’s what sort of motivates you. It’s actually fundamental economics, it’s actually saving money, it’s commercial businesses, seeing that they can reduce costs by tapping into that mobile storage. And so I think to me that’s sort of a massive shift because then it doesn’t care. It doesn’t matter whether you actually believe in global warming or not what most business people do believe in is their bottom line, right? And so I think that’s just sort of a huge part of this. And so that sort of Vehicle to Building.

Loren McDonald:

Maybe the last piece of this, Bill, is sort of a new term that Hyundai has come out with, which they call V2L, Vehicle to Load. And it’s really where we started with the F-150. It’s being able to use the battery in your EV to just power up things like electric cool chest or electric stoves, things like that when you go camping. So the idea of just basically using your EV as like a generator that you don’t have to put gas in and pull the, pull the cord to start it up, it’s just there and you plug in. And those are probably the three main V2s.

Bill Nussey:

I’ll add one more, which I made up and put in the book because I wrote the book and I could make it up and I call it MB2H. The numeral two, which is a Mobile Battery to Home. And building on the notion that I can drive my car, my EV home from work and then use that to recharge the residential batteries in my house. It’s another simple leap to let the Amazon delivery truck or the pizza delivery truck that’s going to come by my house anyway and let them plug into my house for five minutes and top off my home battery. That there’s a lot of things that have to happen for that to work, we need to have much faster charging than we have today, but technically it seems like a fairly straightforward leap that if the technology exists for third party vehicles to pull into my driveway and in a reasonably short time, top off my residential battery by powerwalls or whatever, that actually creates another game-changing option, which is that you could theoretically take your house entirely off grid.

Bill Nussey:

We talk about how, in some parts of the world, mobile phones leapfrog the telephone lines, and there were never any telephone lines built and people always say, “It doesn’t work in the grid, you need to be connected to get the electricity.” But in fact, if the electricity could be delivered to your house. Now this is admittedly pie in the sky, but I think that one of the reasons I get excited about this crazy idea is that across the world, particularly in the United States, it is fundamentally illegal for one person to sell electricity to the next. So if you were my next door neighbor, it is illegal for me to sell you electricity. The monopoly franchise is granted to electric utilities forbid. But there is an increasing number of states that have carved out the one area where someone can sell by the kilowatt hour and that is EV chargers.

Bill Nussey:

And it will be interesting to see if anyone tries to make this into a marketplace, but theoretically I can dock my pizza truck up to your house, give you a couple of kilowatt hours and I can sell it to you because I’m just charging your house. It’d be interesting. So we’ll see. But I just wanted to throw that one little idea on there, just to make sure that I grounded your ideas is very realistic and happening soon, and I was going to throw out something totally pie in this sky, but I get very excited about it because that is completely disruptive to the traditional grid.

Loren McDonald:

Yeah, and Bill, there is actually already some infrastructure out there in the EV space that are sort of akin to Airbnb, right? So you literally can… You basically put your EV charger at your house or could be a commercial office building or something sort of into this network and people can find it on the map. So literally people could sort of just drive by your house and if they have access to the charger, which presumably is going to be outside of your garage, not inside, although in some cases it is and they give you the code to tap into or whatever. But to your big idea there, Bill, there is sort of some companies and networks out there that are enabling the one direction, not by directional, enabling people to sort of charge up cars that are driving by in need.

Loren McDonald:

So it wouldn’t be a big leap once by directional charging becomes sort of more commonplace to allow people to sort of provide me. So yeah, I mean maybe if people buy extra large batteries in electric vehicles, right, and they’re like, “How can I monetize this?” Instead of kids being a pizza delivery, they’ll borrow mom’s Rivian with a 140 kilowatt hour battery and drive to their neighbors and say, “Hey, I’ll reduce your peak energy costs right now, let me plug in and power your house.

Bill Nussey:

I had knocked on people’s doors with my lawnmower in tow and said, “I’ll cut your grass,” and this is just maybe the new thing of the newspaper delivery route or the lawnmower game for younger folks. A lot of people are really excited about the Ford 150 but do you think it stands a chance against the Tesla Cyber Truck?

Loren McDonald:

Absolutely Bill because the F-150 was designed, as we talked about, for a specific type of user, sort of the traditional pickup truck user, the user who uses a truck, a pickup, as part of their sort of daily work, their job or commercial users and fleet users. The Cyber Truck, quite candidly, is being reserved by people who are not your traditional pickup users. So it’s a fashion statement. It’s the cyber punk thing, it stands out, it’s different. It’s quirky, it’s odd. And so they’re really two different markets. And if you want my prediction Bill, I actually think the Cyber Truck is going to disappoint and that it’s not going to come anywhere close to selling the number of units that we’ve been hearing with the reservations. So I think the F-150 is going to convert a lot of people who had Cyber Truck reservations over to them.

Bill Nussey:

Well, listen, this has been a ton of fun and really informative. I always get so much from talking to you and I’ve learned a ton today. As we love to do in the Freeing Energy Podcast, we wrap up our conversations with our esteemed guests with four lightning round questions just to get a glimpse into the genius minds that share their time with us. So I’m going to jump right in on this and to hit you with our four questions and give us your gut reactions.

Loren McDonald:

Yep, okay.

Bill Nussey:

First question, Loren. What excites you most about being in the clean energy industry?

Loren McDonald:

For me really, Bill, it’s really about sort of solving the puzzle, the challenge of understanding when consumers are going to adopt EVs. So for me, it’s fundamentally about making sense of the data and figuring out when it’s going to happen.

Bill Nussey:

And if anyone wants to know when it’s going to happen, they need to go to your site and check it out because your forecast have been some of the most accurate in the industry. Second question, if you could wave a magic wand and see one thing changed in the transition to clean renewable energy, what would it be?

Loren McDonald:

It’s really two things. One, faster charging, because fundamentally faster charging is what consumers want, especially for those road trips. But the second thing really is what we’ve talked about today, bi-directional charging. There currently are literally no EVs except for the Nissan Leaf and that’s going away because they’re changing sort of their charging protocol. But fundamentally to have all automakers make their EVs capable of bi-directional charging. So we can achieve very quickly everything we’ve talked about on this podcast.

Bill Nussey:

Yeah, I wanted to ask a Tesla executive why they didn’t do bi-directional charging, and his answer was that it basically takes the experience out of their hands, it does exasperate issues like the battery recharged cycle count and things like that. But he said, “Don’t discount us doing it in the future, but right now as one of the first entrance, that’s not something we’re going to take a risk on. Third question. What do you think will be the single most important change in how we generate store and distribute electricity in the next five years?

Loren McDonald:

Really three things, Bill, come to mind. The first is just knowledge. I think, and I saw this with myself when I first got solar several years ago, is it changed how I thought about electricity. I started to understand it more. And so I think the first thing that we’re seeing with the Texas freeze and the heat waves and the power outages, consumers never actually thought about electricity and the grid before. And while they’re not becoming experts, they’re sort of more aware of how things work. So I think first and foremost, that leads them to being smarter, using energy more smartly, thinking about things like solar and how they reduce their energy consumption. The second thing is sort of been your and my favorite topics since you and I first started talking about this years ago, what I kind of called the DIY, the idea that we’re becoming prosumers, whatever term you want to call, is that we as consumers don’t just rely on PG&E and the utilities, we actually control our own energy destiny and produce our own electricity and sort of manage that and store it.

Loren McDonald:

And the third piece, Bill, is, and I’m going to tap into a phrase from a company that you and I both worked for. It’s sort of akin to the hybrid cloud idea, right? And for those of you are familiar with that, that’s IBM that basically got sort of killed by the emergence of software in the cloud, SaaS, whatever term you want to use, as opposed to on-premise hardware and stuff. And I think that’s sort of the third thing that I think is going to sort of be game changing and stuff, Bill, is that it’s not going to be the grid versus people having solar and battery at home. It’s really, I think, going to be sort of that combination, that sort of hybrid where that’s really the best way to meet everyone’s needs, right, is to send that electricity to where it needs to be at the right time.

Bill Nussey:

And last question, what do you tell folks when they ask, “What can they do to help make a change towards clean energy?

Loren McDonald:

I think the first thing really, again, is education and awareness. I think fundamentally that’s sort of the most important thing that can that consumers can start to do is just understand their energy use, right? And how they can sort of impact that and whether, again, that’s being smarter about the appliances. I mean, I’ll give you a simple example. Years ago, Bill, I bought several of those electric sort of not space heaters or whatever, but those electric heaters that are like pedestals, because I thought it was smarter instead of firing up my central heating in my house to plug in and spot heat each room. And then when I did that and my daughter plugged in her hairdryer in the room next to my den, the power went out. And it was then I started to understand how electricity and demand a lot better and realize that those little electric heaters actually were insanely inefficient.

Loren McDonald:

So that was sort of one of my first sort of real educations on efficient use of electricity. And so I make light of that, but I think fundamentally that was sort of game changing for me, right? Which ultimately led to me getting solar and things like that. So I think the first thing I tell people is just start to be more aware of the electricity in the grid and how you use it. The second thing I would say, if you can, and it makes sense, and you have the wherewithal, go with solar, right? It’s it’s game-changing. And finally then once you do that, take an electric vehicle for a test drive and you’ll fall in love and then you’ve completed the circle.

Bill Nussey:

Education, solar and electric vehicles. I love it. Well, Loren, thank you so much for sharing some of your time with us today and all these great insights and thank you for all the work that you and the folks at EV Adoption are putting in to educate the world and help steer us towards a much better cleaner future, particularly with transportation. But I particularly love the work that you guys do as it intersects both the big grid, as I call the utilities, and local energy, which is your home and things like that. So it’s been a real pleasure today. I look forward to continuing this great dialogue long into the future.

Loren McDonald:

Great, thanks Bill. It’s been a real honor and a I’m sure you and I could have talked about this intersection of local energy and electric vehicles for a couple more hours. So thanks again for having me.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for joining us today. You have been listening to the Freeing Energy Podcast, personal stories from the clean energy movement. To learn more about the Freeing Energy Project. Visit our website, freeingenergy.com. Subscribe to the freeing energy podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and anywhere podcasts are found. Make sure more people learn about clean local energy by rating and reviewing the show on Apple Podcasts.

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