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V2G Experts Owe Careers to Wine Allergy, Software, Upset Customers

Aug. 15, 2023
Three vehicle-to-grid (V2G) experts recently shared how they found themselves driving the conversation. The common factor? Career 2.0.

Rachel Zook, Nuvve

“I moved to California right after university to begin my career in winemaking,” said Rachel Zook, senior program manager of utility partnerships at Nuvve, a San Diego-based V2G company with installations on five continents.

“During my very first harvest, I developed an allergy to wine,” she said.

Zook packed up, moved to the Middle East and taught English.

“I decided I wanted to work in a field that had a positive impact,” Zook said. “I landed in renewable energy with a specific focus on electric vehicles/electric vehicle infrastructure, and I’ve been in the space ever since.”

Before her job at Nuvve, Zook worked with a sustainable energy nonprofit to accelerate EV adoption.

“I have a good understanding of the barriers that potential customers face when planning to electrify,” she said.

Rudi Halbright, PG&E

Rudi Halbright, product manager of V2G integration at Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E), felt an itch, too.

“I wish I could say it was all part of a beautifully orchestrated plan, but in reality, it’s involved a lot of luck,” Halbright said. “The different areas I find interesting have so many points of connection.”

Halbright used to develop software tools that inform business decisions. An interest in the environment, however, tugged at Halbright. He enrolled in a sustainable MBA program at Presidio Graduate School.

“I had developed a strong interest in V2G technologies and what they could enable while in grad school, and when the opportunity to work in this area opened up, I was excited to be part of it,”

Halbright said.

Albert Burleigh, Blue Bird Corp.

Albert Burleigh, executive director of EV business development at bus manufacturer Blue Bird Corp., encountered a professional plot twist, too.

“My first job out of graduate school was with Ford Motor Co.,” Burleigh said. “I started in a customer service representative role in Ford’s customer assistance center in Detroit. … The idea was to get a good dose of ‘voice of the customer.”

Burleigh spent 15 years in sales and customer service at Ford before moving to Blue Bird. After more than 16 years there, Burleigh oversees electric bus sales and business development for North America.

“Now that I’m part of the EV team, I get to promote not only the safest transportation, but the cleanest, as well,” Burleigh said.

V2G Panelists

Zook, Halbright and Burleigh will share more of their experiences and expectations Sept. 14 during the T&D World Live Conference in Sacramento. Their panel session, “Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) Technology, Utilities and Fleet Operators, will examine:

  • Operational V2G installations.
  • How utilities and governments can help scale.
  • Grid stabilization.
  • EVs as distributed energy resources (DERs).

“I’ll discuss where we’re currently positioned in the V2G space — doing commercial installations around the country and the world,” Zook said. “I want to make it clear that V2G is here now with ready and willing customers.”

Burleigh will discuss how electric buses could stabilize the grid.

“The main points are that not only are school buses one of the best applications for electrification, but also for V2G,” he said. “With the defined and predictable duty cycles, significant dwell time and large batteries, school buses provide the opportunity to assist with stabilizing the grid while allowing schools to earn revenue with these assets. … The opportunity is significant with nearly 500,000 school buses in operation across the country.”

PG&E’s Halbright will examine opportunities with EVs, the largest source of stored energy on the grid.

“In the past, we have scaled capacity to meet peak loads, but now, as the loads are growing, we are also working to decarbonize the grid,” he said. “Having the ability to influence when people charge their vehicles and when they make energy available to meet peaks in demand is critical if we are to meet these needs without drastic price increases for our customers. V2G is a huge part of how we are going to succeed at this.”

The T&D World Live Conference will be Sept. 12-14 in Sacramento, California. Registration, conference and event details are available on the conference website.

Kristen Wright is a journalist with more than 20 years’ experience covering global utilities, petroleum and policy. She is chief strategist at Kristen Wright Strategic Communications. Reach her at [email protected] and wrightkristenm on LinkedIn.

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