Smart grid technology is a rapidly growing sector of the economy promises to lower energy costs by using cheaper, off-peak power for energy-intensive appliances like an electric dryer. Because the all-electric Nissan Leaf is basically a giant battery pack on wheels, Nissan has figured out a way to fashion its EVs together together to help power office buildings with cheaper, off-peak power.
The “Vehicle-to-Building” system, as Nissan calls it, was applied to the Nissan Advanced Technology Center in Atsugi City, Japan. Using a half-dozen of the electric vehicles plugged into special chargers, Nissan is able to juice up the Leafs with cheap, off-peak power and then slowly use that power during the day to offset the higher energy costs of peak power usage. The system is also clever enough to ensure that Leaf owners have enough power to get home at the end of the day. ensuring these electric vehicles are still used as, you know, vehicles.
That said, a building named the “Nissan Advanced Technology Center” probably has some pretty high energy usage, and even with a half-dozen Leafs plugged in, the system still only offsets about 2.5% of the power used during peak hours. The savings resulting from the system are fairly small too, coming in at just $4,800 per year even with six Leafs plugged in, or about $800 per car. But while the savings for a massive corporation are negligible, an extra $800 in the pocket of the average person can add up in a big way over the lifetime of the car.
But I don’t think the real benefit here is cost savings. Rather, this system has the potential to provide (albeit limited) power to an office or home in the case of natural disaster. In the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan, many companies, including Nissan, were left without the power to building their products. But some EV owners figured out how to power their homes with the giant battery-on-wheels sitting in their driveway, and the idea has quickly caught on.
Nissan has since made their an official part of the Leaf’s diversifying portfolio, displaying numerous home-powered concepts and noting that the 24 kWh battery pack has enough juice to power the average home for about two days. If you’re careful and frugal with your power, you could probably get closer to a week out of a full charge. In a natural disaster or SHTF scenario, this system could literally be a lifesaver.