What is vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology? | Top Gear
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Wednesday 4th October

What is vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology?

The connected world can feel like swimming in acronym soup - here's a quick guide

Published: 19 Jun 2023

When it comes to connected cars, we’re well beyond hooking your phone up to your car via Bluetooth to make calls and avoid rubbish radio stations. Now your next car could be ‘vehicle-to-everything’ (V2X) compatible. So what on earth does that mean?

In short, it means your vehicle – despite being physically large – is a smaller device in a network of connected smart devices in the global Internet of Things (IoT), just like your Alexa device at home.

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Your car can connect to another car, to the National Grid, or to road infrastructure, for example. All of these different connections come under the umbrella of ‘vehicle-to-everything’, otherwise known as V2X – the ‘X’ in this case standing for whatever you need it to stand for.

At a time when Renault is making its next electric car ‘vehicle-to-grid compatible’, let’s better understand what all this connectivity really means and how you can get the most out of it when it truly is more commonplace.

Oh, ok, where do we start?

Let’s start with what Ford, Renault and Rivian are doing. They’re making cars that have the hardware on board to not only receive a charge of electricity from the National Grid, but to also be able to send back electricity to the Grid.

What’s the point in that?

When we all come to drive electric, there are fears that there won’t be enough energy at peak hours. If you’ve drawn down your energy during the night – when energy is cheap – and you aren’t using your car at the time of peak demand – when energy is expensive – your car could ‘sell’ some back. That helps the Grid and might help you save/earn some money (depending on how you look at it).

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This is known as ‘vehicle-to-grid’ technology, abbreviated to V2G. There’s open communication between the interested parties, i.e. the car owner (you), the energy supplier and the Grid.

Interesting. Can all V2X solutions earn me money?

No, but they can make life more convenient. For example, vehicle-to-infrastructure – handily abbreviated to V2I – communication sees the car ‘speak’ to the traffic lights or a toll booth.

The days of ‘get one red light, get them all’ could be numbered, since the infrastructure is made aware you’re on the approach and can manage the timings of the lights accordingly.

Hang on, though. I’m not special. Won’t every car have this V2I stuff?

Oh dear reader, you are special to us. But you’re right. The objective isn’t to magically change the lights to green on your approach. That works on an empty street late at night.

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During the day, when it’s more congested, that two-way communication between the infrastructure – in this case, the lights – and the car means the driver might get a countdown to the next green light.

This tech is already deployed in parts of the US and yes, will likely be on every car much further into the future.

I see. And you mentioned toll booths?

Yep. In a similar way to the Dart Tag, toll roads will be able to communicate with cars – insist on a maximum speed, let the driver know the amount to pay, or perhaps which lane to get in. It’ll basically be a more sophisticated set-up than it is now, where there's just an RFID tag to show you've paid already.

V2I comms will also help with things like ambulances and other emergency vehicles. Right now, we hear the sirens, but we don’t know before we see the vehicle whether we need to move over.

It could be that such information – e.g the direction the vehicle is heading/coming from – will be displayed on your car’s centre screen or head-up display so you know whether to keep moving or pull over.

Infrastructure and grid, eh? Not exactly ‘everything’...

Sure. There’s also V2V tech. That stands for ‘vehicle-to-vehicle’. That’s pretty cool. It’s where each car passes on the info like Chinese whispers – except because the computer isn’t interpreting the message but just disseminating it, it doesn’t get changed.

What could that be used for?

Say there’s snow 20 miles up the road. The car nearest the snow will detect it and send the message back down the line. Or into the cloud – where it’s analysed and sent back down to each of the same brand of vehicle, in real-time.

Do we really need all this? If it snows, I’ll just slow down and put my wipers on, like I have done MY WHOLE DRIVING EXISTENCE.

Yeah, we know. Some of it sounds like overkill. But perhaps we can be open-minded enough to acknowledge that at some point, there’ll be a genuinely useful application of some of this stuff... like making money from selling back electricity.

Are you banging on about that vehicle-to-grid tech again?

Ooh, you learn fast. Gold star for you.

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