The beehive batteries from 10 million Nissan electric cars could power the entire UK

The spread of electric vehicles is unsustainable, critics argue, because electricity grids won’t be able to cope when everyone and their dog drives electric cars en masse. However, the opposite may be the case: battery vehicles can pump electrons IN the electrical network. When EVs aren’t being used, that is, like most motor vehicles, it’s most of the time.

Therefore, electric vehicles could soon provide a widely distributed, bi-directional beehive-style battery source that would store green energy when it would otherwise go to waste and feed it back into the grid at times of peak demand.

The $27,400 Nissan Leaf is one of the few widely available electric cars that is already bi-directional in that it can absorb energy and put it back out. Ariya worth $47,000, The new all-electric SUV crossover of the Japanese company was recently crowned “Car of the Year” by Auto Express, is also so equipped. In theory, ten million Nissan EVs using the company’s Energy Share mode could meet the UK’s peak electricity demand

There are 32 million vehicles registered in the UK Currently, only 500,000 of these are all-electric models, but with the UK set to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, the use of EVs -ve will accelerate. Before the pandemic, approximately two million new cars were registered each year. According to figures from automotive analyst Jato, almost 4.2 million electric cars were sold worldwide in 2021, up 108% in 2020 and 198% in 2019.

Optimistically, almost half of UK vehicles could be electric or hybrid electric by 2030.

Leaf was a global pioneer of electric cars when it was introduced in 2010. Nissan introduced a second-generation iteration in 2019. 500,000 Leafs have been sold globally since its launch in 2010. Nissan said in 2020. The company’s plant in Sunderland, northeast England, can produce 100,000 EVs a year.

Nissan’s electric vehicles can store and pump electricity, as well as absorb it for propulsion, because they are equipped with CHAdeMO charging ports in addition to the more standard CCS ports. CHAdeMO is a standard way of charging in Japan, but automakers – with the exception of Nissan – have not included the charging technology in cars available overseas.

In Japan, Nissan Leaf cars have been powering disaster relief efforts – especially after earthquakes – for more than ten years.

Net zero

While fracking continues to generate headlines in the UK – key backers of those MPs still in the Tory leadership race want their favored candidates to restart fracking and abandon net zero commitments – as of 2019, more electricity is being produced in British Isles from cleaner sources than fossil fuels. With the rise of onshore and offshore wind farms and the closure of coal-fired power stations, transport is currently the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, making it difficult for politicians to push the use of electric vehicles.

National Grid, which operates the UK’s electricity grid, is optimistic that energy demand will not exceed supply, predicting a 10% increase in electricity use even if “we all switch to EVs overnight”.

And if electric cars were to be recharged with domestic solar power or plugged in at off-peak times and that electricity sold to the grid at peak times, that would be a win for EV owners, making them money and a win for the grid, smoothing the peaks and troughs of the energy supply.

UK household energy bills rose by 54% in April 2022, a record rise, and are expected to rise again in October.

Network vehicle

Connecting an electric car so it can feed into the grid is a process known as vehicle-to-grid, or V2G. Connecting an EV to power a home is known as vehicle-to-building, or V2B, and the overall ability of EVs to plug into the grid or buildings or recharge energy packs is known as VGI, or integration of the vehicle network.

The Nissan Leaf and Nissan’s electric van and new Ariya are the most available EVs with vehicle network integration as standard.

The CCS charging system is expected to be VGI compliant by 2025.

The UK Government has assisted the VGI sector. Several projects – generally using the Sunderland-built Nissan Leaf – have been supported by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles. These projects include trials run by OVO Energy and Octopus Electric Vehicles, which will report their findings soon.

VGI projects already under development and operating elsewhere in Europe include one in Denmark, which has been operating commercially since 2016. This was a collaboration between Nissan, the multinational energy company Enel and California-based Nuvve, a VGI specialist founded in 2010. (Earlier this year Nuvve signed a memorandum of understanding with the US Department of Energy to commercialize VGI technologies in the US)

Four years ago, Nissan supplied retired EV batteries to provide backup power and VGI capability to the Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam, home of Ajax Football Club. The roof of the arena has 4,200 solar panels, with the resulting electricity stored in the equivalent of 148 Nissan Leaf batteries; surplus electricity is sold to the Dutch national grid.

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