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Nissan's Big Idea: EVs as Storage & Distributed Energy Resources

Source: Global Times

Two energy technologies that seem to be on everyone's list of being about to transform the utility industry are distributed energy resources (DERs) and electric vehicles. What may be even more impactful to the grid than the advent of these two concepts is their power combined in a smart, deliberate, and effective way. 

According to this article from Global Times, several global utilities are already collaborating with Nissan (maker of the all-electric Nissan Leaf) to develop a service that would let energy stored on EV batteries to be sold back to the grid. In this way, theoretically an EV owner could be incentivized to charge their car during times when energy supply exceeds demand (e.g., during the afternoon when people are at work and demand drops but generation from solar resources is peaking) and then sell whatever excess power they have stored onboard during times when demand is greater than supply (e.g., during the early evening hours when solar has droppped off but night-time demand is peaking with families returning home and using energy-intensive appliances). 

The advantages of this type of vehicle-to-grid system and how it would enable unique new energy management mechanisms are abundant:

  • Most obviously, this system would change the rising amount of EVs being bought over the next 10 years from a burden to the grid and utility generators to an asset in helping them smooth out the duck curve inherent to increased solar power
  • This system would also incentivize the purchase of EVs and thus help decarbonize the transportation sector because financial mechanisms can be set up in such a way that charging and connecting an EV to the grid at the right times leads to overall free charging of EVs. 
  • As the idea of virtual power plants from smartly designed DERs takes hold, EVs would be able to stand in as part of the infrastructure and network needed to make such a system work.

 

Of course with any new technology or attempted transformation, this vehicle to grid energy management would not be without its challenges:

  • As the Global Times article notes, a major hurdle is compatibility of charging types-- where much infrastructure is being built out with ports that are intended to charge EVs as quickly as possible, the type needed to allow selling excess power back to the grid is a different type of port
  •  Car buyers might be wary of this plan if it comes with an increased degradation of their battery without suitable personal returns
  • Similarly, special equipment would need to be installed in homes to allow for such a program-- a large upfront cost that would need to have suitable payback period in the eyes of the consumer (or the utility if they're subsidizing it)

 

So there are some real opportunities with this idea, but in practice there's still much to be figured out. 

Would you take advantage of such a system as a consumer? Is your organization looking into these type of programs on the utility side?

Matt Chester's picture

Thank Matt for the Post!

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