Fleets at the forefront of vehicle-to-grid initiatives
Fleets could transform from corporate cost centres to revenue generators with the development of new vehicle-to-grid technology. Pilot schemes are already in place that allow the owners of battery-powered vehicles to recharge at times of low demand for electricity, and then to sell that energy back into national grids during periods of peak demand.
By storing excess power in vehicle batteries, fleets can help to improve the resilience of national grids and promote the use of renewable energy sources. The opportunity to store electricity generated by wind and solar will be a major boost to clean energy production.
A study released last month [January 2018] by the European Climate Foundation, in which Renault is a partner, said, “The use of vehicle-to-grid services (V2G) can help integrate intermittent energies and stabilise the grid in order to phase-out fossil fuels in the French power sector, either by implementing smart charging or bilateral charges (electricity is exported from the vehicle to the grid).”
Smart charging allows energy companies to cut the power supply to recharging EVs when electricity demand is particularly high, and then to resume charging when demand falls.
The potential for V2G is huge. In France alone, the 4.4 million forecast electric cars by 2030 could store about 45 GWh. The nation’s power needs between 6pm and 8pm on a winter’s day is barely 4.5GWh.
In Denmark, Nissan is heavily involved in a project that is providing ‘free’ electricity to electric vehicle fleets. Fleet customers draw energy from the grid to recharge their cars or vans and then sell it back to the grid for others to use. Once a business has invested in a bi-directional V2G charger, there are no subsequent fuel or energy costs; just free power for its EVs.
One early adopter is utility company Frederiksberg Forsyning, which has installed 10 V2G units at its Copenhagen headquarters and purchased 10 electric Nissan eNV200 vans for its fleet. When the eNV200s are not in use, they can be plugged into the new V2G units and receive energy from and provide energy back to the national grid on demand. The system effectively turns the vans into mobile energy solutions.
In the UK, Nissan has just secured £6 million of Government investment to create a large-scale demonstrator project that will involve the installation of 1,000 V2G chargers over the next three years. Part of the trial will assess appropriate levels of incentives for EV owners to provide power back to the grid when required, and to evaluate a commercial offer for electric vehicle fleets.
Ian Cameron, head of innovation at UK Power Networks, a partner in the project, said: “Electric vehicles are effectively energy resources on wheels, so there are tremendous opportunities to explore how electricity networks can utilise any spare capacity in those batteries to benefit our customers.
“As fleet operators weigh up the move towards converting to low emission vehicles, this technology could see fleets generating an additional income stream from Distribution System Operator flexibility markets while they are parked in depots and car parks. Selling electricity back to the network could help boost the business case for major operators, making the large-scale adoption of electric vehicles more viable”.
Francisco Carranza, managing director of Nissan Energy at Nissan Europe, said the manufacturer now views its vehicles as an intrinsic part of the way we consume, share, and generate energy. “Our EVs can be plugged into the grid and support the transmission and distribution companies in making the UK grid more sustainable and more stable,” he said. “Our electric V2G-ready vehicles will be used as clean mobile energy units.”
Carranza added that Nissan has repeated its ambition to offer customers free power for their EVs. “V2G introduction will change the rules of the game and make energy cheaper for everyone,” he said.
Overall energy supply
Nor are manufacturers limiting their focus to vehicle batteries. For example, the Audi Smart Energy Network pilot project, which launched in January, will install battery storage solutions at domestic residences to capture electricity from photovoltaic systems. The electricity can be used at a later time to power a car or house, and the storage system will be connected to the national grid.
Dr. Hagen Seifert, head of sustainable product concepts at Audi, said, “We are looking at electric mobility in the context of an overall energy supply system that is increasingly based on renewables – enabling producers to feed power into the grid. That is now for the first time also possible down at the level of individual households.”