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GM and PG&E to Test Program for Electric Vehicles to Boost Power Grid

General Motors Co.

GM 1.26%

and PG&E Corp.

PCG -0.24%

plan to test the use of electric vehicles to power homes during the holidays as the California-based utility company works to reduce the effects of fires on its customers.

The companies said Tuesday they plan to test the concept this summer using charging equipment and other technology that allows two-way power flow from vehicle to home. The companies plan to escalate the pilot program to include customer testing by the end of the year.

The technology could help PG&E customers maintain their power supply during what are known as public safety outages or preventative outages designed to reduce the risk of power lines catching fire during a windstorm. PG&E has often resorted to such interruptions in recent years, after power lines triggered a series of fires in 2017 and 2018 that killed more than 100 people.

“It’s not just a huge breakthrough for electrical reliability and climate resilience. “is another advantage of clean electric vehicles, which are so important in our collective fight against climate change,” said PG&E CEO Patti Poppe.

For GM, the idea could help the company promote its electric vehicles as emergency back-up generators, boosting consumer appeal.

“GM’s partnership with PG&E further expands our e-mobility strategy, demonstrating our EVs as reliable mobile energy sources,” said GM Barra, CEO of GM.

PG&E also plans to adjust its system settings so that power lines in areas with a high risk of fire close as soon as they come into contact, a measure designed to reduce the risk of fire from power lines. The company piloted such settings last year and now plans to expand them widely.

“We anticipate that there may be additional downtime, but we are firmly focused on minimizing the impact of the downtime,” Sumeet Singh, PG&E’s head of security and risk, said in an interview last month.

The pilot is one of many attempts to test the use of electric vehicles as backup power sources capable of powering the grid, rather than simply drawing on it. The idea that EV batteries could help power an area’s emergency or peak demand has a name: on-grid or V2G vehicle.

Opponent of GM Ford Motor Co.

φά 0.94%

has advertised its backup power capability as a point of sale for the F-150 Lightning electric truck.

I write to you Katherine Blunt at Katherine.Blunt@wsj.com

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GM and PG&E to Test Program for Electric Vehicles to Boost Power Grid

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