Nissan and GE team up to study EV batteries as renewable energy storage

Nissan and GE team up to study EV batteries as renewable energy storageSince the successful launches of electric vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan LEAF last year, people have been talking about the possibility of using EV batteries to store energy from solar panels.

Now Nissan and GE are teaming up to put rubber to the road and see if it can be done.

The companies signed a two-year research collaboration to speed up the development of a reliable, robust smart charging infrastructure to fuel mass market adoption of electric cars, according to a release from GE.

“The first step in this process will be to see what do these things need” said Matt Nielsen who heads GE’s electric vehicle research department. “What is their load impact going to be? The next step is to determine what type of energy sources make the most sense for charging them.”

Many EV buyers have paired their new electric cars with home solar arrays that will produce enough power to keep their cars charged so the fuel is truly zero-emissions and zero-fuel cost.

Several projects are already underway, according to the release. In one project, researchers will use aggregate usage data along with sophisticated simulation and modeling experiments to analyze the effect millions of electric cars could have on our electrical distribution system

In another study, researchers from the companies are studying how electric cars like Nissan LEAF can be incorporated into GE's overall concept for a Smart Home. Nissan engineers are developing methods to connect the vehicle to the home, making it a more integrated part of the building's energy equipment. This project will look at how the addition of an electric car impacts the cost of electricity and changes overall home electricity loads.

“The interesting thing here that we’re going to explore is how an EV battery can be a resource by being energy storage,” Nielsen said. “If you have a system that can not only take energy, but can give it back, this is something new we can use as a control knob.”

Nielsen said there are a lot of questions to answer in the research: How often do you draw back from the battery and when does it make sense to do it? How many extra cycles will it put on the battery and what will the impact be on the battery? And how will the mass infusion of electric vehicles impact the grid and how can they be integrated into the grid?

“We’re early in this research project,” Nielsen said. “As we start to address some of these questions, more questions will come up.”

Image courtesy of GE.