Nissan revs up for ‘decade of disruption’ with UK’s first vehicle-to-grid energy storage system

Japanese carmaker and leading electric vehicle (EV) producer Nissan is "turning science fiction into science fact" with a groundbreaking new scheme that will turn allow consumers to sell energy stored by Nissan Leaf cars back to the National Grid.

The new project – the first of its kind in the UK – sees Nissan partner with Italian energy company Enel to develop 100 new vehicle-to-grid (V2G) energy storage units that bring together vehicles, roads and energy networks in “complete synchronicity”.

As successfully demonstrated by previous trials in Denmark, the system essentially allows EVs to become fully integrated with the electricity grid, improving handling capabilities of renewable power generation. Nissan believes that, if fully integrated, the concept could save £2.4bn in electricity costs by 2030.

Speaking at a launch event in London yesterday, Nissan Europe’s chairman Paul Willcox said: “Within the next 10 years, we’ll see more change than within the past 100. We are entering the decade of disruption and it’s an opportunity for Nissan and the world around us to behave and act differently.

“We believe that the EV can become a mobile power unit. You can use that power for transport but also inject energy back into the grid, into your home and into your city, schools and hospitals. We believe there are significant opportunities to engage with collaboratively to optimise the concept of EVs beyond a transportation model.”

Engineering feat

The V2G energy storage trials could generate 180MW of capacity if all 18,000 Nissan EVs in the UK were connected to the network.

With this potential capacity on the horizon, both Nissan and the National Grid realise that continued collaboration and renovation of existing grid infrastructure will be needed to create what is being hailed as “the engineering feat of the 21st century”.

Also speaking at the launch event, National Grid’s former chief executive Steve Holliday said: “In the UK, we’ve got one of the most reliable grid systems, but we’ve got a revolution going on with the production of power. The system we’re trying to put in place is a very agile and flexible system, which requires a tremendous amount of investment, technology upgrades and communication.

“It’s an extraordinarily exciting time with an unbelievable amount of change going on, and I think we’re going to see phenomenal shifts within the next three years. But the only way it’s going to really work is through collaboration. Not just across one industrial sector but across multiple sectors.”

The V2G charging infrastructure is being developed by Enel – which Nissan has previously worked with during battery energy storage trials in France. Enel believes that the units can “stabilise the grid with green energy” by “transforming” the way that consumers use energy.

Video: Nissan’s vehicle-to-grid technology

And the green innovation doesn’t stop there. With Nissan aiming to roll out this initiative throughout Europe in the coming years, the firm will be using its numerous headquarters across the continent as trialling beacons that will utilise the V2G units, as well as Nissan’s new residential energy storage system, which was also unveiled at yesterday’s event.

The X-Storage system – reservations for which can be made in September – will give consumers the chance to manage and generate their own energy through “second-life” Nissan EV lithium batteries, which Willcox revealed were around 95% recyclable. By 2017, all Nissan headquarters will be utilising the two systems to generate and manage energy.

These energy storage systems form just one part of Nissan’s future blueprints in the EV space which, alongside a plan to put fully autonomous cars onto the roads by 2020, also includes the ‘Fuel Station of the Future’ concept.

Developed over 12 months in collaboration with architects Forster + Partners, Nissan’s Fuel Station of the Future is an big step towards the ‘Internet of Things’; incorporating the battery-storage systems, wireless charging, autonomous driving and V2G units to “revolutionise” how energy is consumed and distributed across Europe’s major cities.

Video: Nissan’s Fuel Station of the Future

“The drive for this change is from the customer expectation,” Willcox added. “The forecast for 2050 is the doubling of the number of cars on the road to 2.4bn and to deliver that expectation and to ensure sustainability requires some really smart thinking.

“Fortunately we have some smart solutions to start the process. We’re providing a financial incentive to customers to choose a sustainable option. We think the potential is enormous.”

Matt Mace

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