Alex Goldmark is a senior producer in the newsroom for New Tech City and Transportation Nation.
Nissan unveiled a new charging system for its all-electric Leaf this week. The difference with this charger is that the car can power the house, not just the other way around. That's a big step forward in realizing the full potential of electric vehicles.
One of the long-promised benefits of widespread adoption of electric cars is that they could make our electric grid more efficient by acting as storage capacity for excess energy. For the most part, power grids are designed to meet peak demand, which is during the day. There is usually excess capacity at night.
Cars plugged in at night could fill their batteries to the brim. Those batteries could then deliver some of that power back to the grid during the day, easing the strain on power generation facilities and reducing the overall demand. That's called vehicle-to-grid technology. If it ever works en masse, it would also make the system more adaptable to fluctuating demand, and greener.
The Nissan Leaf's lithium-ion battery can store 24kwh, enough to power the average Japanese home for 2 days, according to the company.
So called grid-integrated electric cars have been around for years, but we haven't yet seen the newest generation of EVs like the Leaf and Chevy Volt roll out and promote the technology. This Leaf charger was unveiled at Nissan's Kan-kan-kyo demonstration house outside company headquarters in Yokohama, Japan. The company touted the technology as "part of its comprehensive efforts toward the realization of a zero-emission society."
Nissan is still working out how to integrate the charger with existing commercial grid systems. According to the University of Delaware a grid-integrated electric vehicle could earn between $1,000 and $5,000 a year for its owner as a power storage device for electric utilities.