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EV owners could cash in selling electricity

UK trial investigates plugging in to sell electricity back to the grid

Published: May 10, 2016, 9:30 PM
Updated: May 13, 2016, 2:41 PM

Leaf V2G connection

In the push to electrify more of the road population, manufacturers have tried to secure incentives with governments, in order to make the cost of purchasing an electric vehicle more in line with the cost of vehicles powered by the traditional internal combustion engine. But what if you could not only get a rebate at time of purchase but could actually make money driving your vehicle?

That’s what Nissan is exploring with the first ever vehicle-to-grid (V2G) trial in the UK.

The automaker is partnering with multinational power company Enel (headquartered in Rome) to install 100 V2G units at select locations agreeable to Leaf and e-NV200 owners and fleet operators. Each unit will allow the user to sell stored energy from their vehicle’s battery to the national grid.

“This is the first time this has ever been done in the UK and by enabling customers to sell energy back to the grid, we’re providing a financial incentive to choose the sustainable option,” said Paul Willcox, Chairman of Nissan Europe. “Smart energy management is one of the biggest challenges any nation faces for the future which is why this trial is so critical in assessing the feasibility of using variable, more flexible energy sources. We see Nissan electric vehicles as being the mobile energy hubs of the future, pioneering a self-sustaining energy infrastructure that will help solve the capacity issues of the future.”

The thought was always that electrified vehicles could potentially be used to power homes in emergency situations, but this trial will actually allow users to sell energy back to the grid, providing an alternate source of income for vehicle owners and in essence making them an active part of the energy grid.

“The installation of our innovative 2-way charging technology will encourage the integration of non-programmable renewable energy flow into the grid and will help the spread of electric mobility in the country, benefitting the energy sector and the environment, while also having a positive impact on electric owners’ wallets,” said Ernesto Ciorra, Enel’s Head of Innovation and Sustainability. “The fact that Nissan has chosen Enel’s charging technology to trial in the UK is the perfect demonstration of just how much potential the Group’s V2G electric vehicle charging system has to revolutionise not only transport but also the way electricity distribution works.”

The trial is part of a larger commitment between Nissan and Enel to support the entire electric-vehicle ecosystem. It is expected that the number of EVs on the roads will grow exponentially in coming years (as much as double the current number of EVs on today’s roads by 2050), and one of the worries has been about the grid being able to handle the charging demands from an expected 2.4 billion vehicles. Although a small step, the V2G connection would appease some of the concerns.

“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,” said Steven Holliday, Non-Executive Director, National Grid (an international electricity and gas company based in the UK but also supplying energy to the northeastern US). “Our Future Energy team predicts that there could be up to 700,000 Electric Vehicles in 2020 requiring an extra 500 (megawatts) of energy. That’s 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.”

Nissan estimates that if all 18,000 Nissan electric vehicles toiling in the UK were able to feed the grid, they would add an equivalent output up to a 180-MW generating plant. If EV growth projections are correct, the vehicles on the road could return up to 370 gigawatts of electricity back to the grid. Nissan says that’s enough to power the UK, France and Germany.

The trial is part of an agreement signed between Nissan and Enel at the Paris conference on climate change at the turn of year. A similar program is already in place in Denmark, featuring 42 V2G units.