Nissan & Enel Case Study

The partners are turning automobiles into mobile power sources using 'vehicle-to-grid' software that allows drivers to trade electricity.

The partners are enabling drivers of Nissan Leaf battery-powered cars and e-NV200 electric vans to sell excess energy during periods of peak demand— turning automobiles into mobile power sources using Enel’s ‘vehicle-to-grid’ software that allow drivers to trade electricity via National Grid Plc.

Big firms often struggle to innovate.1 But two corporate giants, Nissan and Enel Group, have forged a pioneering partnership that uses existing solutions to break new ground. A joint venture between the Japanese car maker and Italy’s largest utility is allowing electric vehicle owners to sell energy back to the grid, empowering consumers and raising the prospect of mass clean energy storage.

The technology was already in place: Nissan is the world’s leading manufacturer of electric vehicles (EVs), with 200,000 sales by late 2015.2 Meanwhile, Enel’s Vehicle to Grid (V2G) infrastructure allows aggregated power from distributed batteries to be collectively put back into the network.3 By bringing their offerings together, the companies have achieved something neither could alone.

The scheme allows owners of Nissan’s electric car, the Nissan LEAF, to use a special two-way charger and energy management system to top up their car batteries when tariffs are low, and then sell back to the grid when prices rise. Alternatively, they can use the cheaper energy stored in the vehicle for household power at peak times.4 Given personal cars are parked for 95% of their life, the average car battery can earn its owner €30-60 per month without even leaving the garage.5

The programme is already being rolled out commercially in Denmark, and is set to be trialled in Germany and the UK, where it is partnering with the National Grid.6 The potential is staggering. The UK’s 18,000-strong fleet of Nissan LEAFs could contribute the equivalent of a 180 MW power plant if fully integrated, according to Nissan. And if all UK vehicles were electric, we’d be looking at a virtual storage facility with 370 GW capacity – enough to power the UK, Germany and France.7

This could save the UK£2.4 billion in electricity costs by 2030 if adopted fully, says Nissan.8 The environmental gains would be big too: incentivising more people to switch to EVs could help tackle urban pollution and cut CO2 emissions.9  And, by acting as storage units for clean power, electric cars could help grid managers overcome the problem of irregular renewable energy generation.

References

1 De Jong, M., Marston, N., Roth, E. (2015) “The eight essentials of innovation”. McKinsey Quarterly, April. http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/the-eight-essentials-of-innovation.

2 Nissan Insider. “Nissan and ENEL launch first smart grid trials”. http://nissaninsider.co.uk/nissan-and-enel-launch-first-smart-grid-trials.

3 From private company interview.

4 Nissan Insider. “Nissan and ENEL launch first smart grid trials”. http://nissaninsider.co.uk/nissan-and-enel-launch-first-smart-grid-trials.

5 From private company interview.

6 Ibid.

7 Nissan. (2016) “Nissan and Enel launch groundbreaking vehicle-to-grid project in the UK”. Nissan Great Britain Press Release, 10 May. http://www.newsroom.nissan-europe.com/uk/en-gb/Media/Media.aspx?mediaid=145248.

8 See http://www.edie.net/news/8/Nissan-electric-vehicle-to-grid-energy-storage-system-UK-national-grid/
See http://www.edie.net/news/11/Regulatory-reforms-and-energy-storage-systems-could-create--2-4bn-windfall-for-UK-energy-market/#.VzHSPmGYRn4.twitter 

9 See https://www.enel.com/en-gb/Pages/article/vehicle-to-grid.aspx