Nissan takes on Tesla in vehicle-to-grid energy tech race

Nissan takes on Tesla in vehicle-to-grid energy tech race

Nissan EV vehicle energy grid technology
Automakers are wading deeper into the energy business.

Nissan has entered the energy market, revealing plans last week for the U.K.'s first vehicle-to-grid (V2G) pilot scheme and launching a new domestic energy storage system for the European market.

Under the V2G pilot, developed in partnership with Italian utility Enel and National Grid, 100 Nissan LEAF owners in the U.K. will use special bi-directional charging points to sell stored power from their vehicles back to the grid at peak times.

Paul Wilcox, chairman of Nissan Europe, told reporters he believed the potential for vehicle-to-grid technology is "enormous." Already, U.S. automakers including Tesla also have entered the space with new energy storage offerings of their own.

"Today we have 18,000 electric Nissan LEAFs running on the roads in the U.K.," he said. "If all of those were connected, they would have a capacity of 180MW of energy — which is the equivalent to two power plants. In the future, if all vehicles on the road in the U.K. were electric and were connected, we would make a virtual power plant of 370GW. That's enough power to cover the U.K., Germany and France."

The announcement builds on an earlier trial involving 40 vehicles in Norway, which began at the start of this year. Once scaled up, Nissan predicts vehicle-to-grid technology could alleviate pressure on the grid during peak times. The U.K. grid is currently stretched to record levels following the retirement of a flurry of coal-fired power stations this winter.

Steve Holliday, executive director at National Grid, said the grid operator is working hard to try to future-proof the system ahead of the massive wave of EVs expected to plug into the grid over the next decade.

"The rapid uptake of electric vehicles is certainly positive, yet could also be challenging if we don't plan ahead to understand precisely what effect this new technology will have on the electricity system," he said in a statement. "That is why we support innovative technologies and pioneering projects such as this one that have the potential to make a real difference to the way we manage energy supply and demand."

In a move which pits Nissan against high-profile battery maker and emerging auto giant Tesla, Nissan also unveiled xStorage, a domestic energy storage system made using retired Nissan LEAF batteries.

The 4.2kWh system will allow homeowners to store energy from onsite generation sources — such as rooftop solar arrays — to use later, or store cheap energy from the grid which they can use or sell back to the grid during times of peak demand.

Nissan claims that installation of the device could generate the average user $864 every year from selling power back into the grid system at peak periods.

Pre-orders for the $4,322 system, which will be available across Europe, will start in September, the company said. The guide price includes installation and set-up, and comes with a smartphone app allowing users to adjust their preferences remotely.

Nissan said it expects to sell 100,000 xStorage systems in Europe over the next five years. As demand for the product may outstrip supply of old LEAF batteries, representatives suggested that an xStorage system using first-generation batteries also may become available at a later date, but at a higher price.

While the xStorage system in its current form is designed for domestic users, Nissan indicated that work is under way to develop systems for commercial buildings. Indeed, Wilcox pledged that by 2017, all Nissan's European headquarters would be part-powered by vehicle-to-grid and xStorage products.

The emergence and convergence of electric vehicles, smart grid systems and battery technologies look set to ensure that the world's leading automotive firms soon will become famous for a lot more than simply selling cars.

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