The companies are expanding their existing partnership, announced last year, into a two-year project that will work on a smart vehicle charging system to help keep the expected boom in adoption for electric vehicles from crashing the electric grid when EVs simultaneously plug in to charge at the end of the day.
The research is to include seeing how EVs can become part of a "building's energy equipment" so that either alone or working with a renewable power source, such as rooftop solar, the integrated system would help reduce demand on the grid -- and help balance it in times of peak need. GreenBiz has developed a concept called VERGE to describe that idea of connected, mutually supportive alliance of vehicles, energy, buildings and IT.
The need for this kind of partnership was underscored last month by the results of the EDISON study in Denmark, which found that, in order for EVs to mesh with existing energy grids -- but especially with grids that rely on renewable energy for some of its supply -- smart charging systems will need to be widely adopted. And GE's partnership with Nissan takes the concept of connecting homes, cars and the grid several steps further than another recent announcement about making the flow of energy between EVs and their owners' homes a two-way street.
New Jersey firm NRG Energy Inc. and the University of Delaware joined forces last week to explore technology that will allow homeowners to sell energy stored in the batteries of their parked electric vehicles to the grid. Already, specially equipped Priuses are being used to generate power in Japan, where efforts to recover from the earthquake and tsunami last spring continue.
The GE-Nissan relationship combines the automaker's strength in zero-emissions vehicles and GE's broad involvement across industries involving generation and distribution of energy. The company says that 25 percent of the world's electricity is generated or distributed by GE equipment. The firm's work in the EV space includes manufacturing of EV chargers for the home and for commercial charging stations. The company's Smart Home push includes appliances and equipment designed for hooking up to a smart grid and systems to manage energy use.
Image courtesy of Nissan Leaf.