Nissan joins home storage bandwagon

Home storage, vehicle-to-grid technology and next generation Li-ion batteries are in the sights of Nissan.
Published: Thu 26 May 2016

After companies including Tesla and most recently Daimler, Nissan has become the latest auto manufacturer to look to enter the home energy storage market. [Engerati-Automobile Firms Rush to Grab Their Piece of the Energy Storage Market]

But unlike these manufacturers, which are selling new batteries, Nissan’s focus, like that of BMW which has been experimenting with them at utility-scale, is on second use batteries, which typically have up to 80% of their original capacity. [Engerati-Grid Storage Brings Second Life To Electric Vehicle Batteries]

Nissan and Eaton partner

Nissan has partnered with power management company Eaton to launch the xStorage system, which is claimed to be “the most reliable and affordable” in the market today.

The system, designed with “aesthetics and usability in mind”, is also touted as first device of its kind in the market to provide a fully integrated energy storage solution for homeowners.

“This means, unlike other storage devices, this factory made integrated unit ensures safety and performance when storing and distributing clean power to consumers,” a press statement says.

The system comes ready to go, with set-up by a certified installer, and can be connected to either the residential power supply or the household PV. It will also have smartphone connectivity to allow consumers to switch easily between energy sources.

“We want to make energy storage exciting and affordable to everyone, not least because it delivers real consumer benefits whilst ensuring smarter and more sustainable energy management for the grid,” says Paul Willcox, chairman of Nissan Europe.

The xStorage system, set for pre-ordering from September 2016, is comprised of twelve Nissan EV battery modules and includes all the required elements such as cabling. The starting price including installation is £3,200 for 4.2kWh nominal.

According to the statement, the new xStorage system marks the start of a longer-term commitment by Nissan and Eaton to widen the portfolio of energy storage solutions available to both private and commercial customers. Sales of more than 100,000 xStorage units are anticipated within the next five years.

Nissan and Enel partner launch V2G project in UK

Nissan is also in a partnership with Enel, and the two companies have developed a vehicle-to-grid (V2G) system with bi-directional charging capability, which allows electric vehicles when not in use to form part of the grid by storing or returning electricity.

At COP 21 the two companies agreed to trial the technology in Europe, and the first of these, comprising 40 V2G units, began in Denmark in January 2016.

Now the two companies are going to launch the first major V2G trial in the UK, with 100 V2G units to be installed and connected at locations agreed by private and fleet owners of the Nissan LEAF and e-NV200 electric van. Germany, the Netherlands and other northern European countries are set to follow.

With V2G technology, EVs can support grid management, while also making their owners some money – similarly to solar PV owners being able to sell excess energy to their utility. For example, an owner could charge the battery of the cars at times when energy prices and demand are lower, and then use the stored electricity or sell it back to the grid at peak times when tariffs are higher.

“The rapid uptake of EVs is certainly positive yet could also be challenging if we don’t plan ahead to understand precisely what effect this new technology will have on the electricity system,” explains Steven Holliday, non-executive director of National Grid. “Our Future Energy team predict that there could be up to 700,000 EVs [in UK] in 2020 requiring an extra 500MW of energy. That’s why we support innovative technologies and pioneering projects such as this one that have the potential to make a real difference to the way we manage energy supply and demand.”

Currently if all 18,000 Nissan EVs in the UK were connected to the energy network, they would generate the equivalent output of a 180MW power plant. If that was scaled up in a future where all the vehicles on UK roads are electric, V2G technology could generate a virtual power plant of up to 370GW – enough to power the UK, Germany and France.

Boosting efficiency of Li-ion batteries

A key challenge for EV technology is improving the range of these vehicles and one aspect of this is upping the performance of the lithium-ion batteries.

In a new project, Nissan along with subsidiary Nissan Arc, an investigation has been undertaken into the structure of amorphous silicon monoxide (SiO), widely seen as key to boosting next-generation Li-ion battery capacity. Other partners included Tohoku University, the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS), the Japan Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute (JASRI), and Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST).

Silicon is capable of holding greater amounts of lithium, compared with common carbon-based materials, but in crystalline form possesses a structure that deteriorates during charging cycles, ultimately impacting performance. However, amorphous SiO is resistant to such deterioration.

The atomic structure of SiO was thought to be inhomogeneous, making its precise atomic arrangements the subject of debate. The new findings show that its structure allows the storage of a larger number of Li ions, in turn leading to better battery performance.

“The utilization of this analysis method in our future R&D will surely contribute to extending the cruising range of future zero-emission vehicles,” commented Takao Asami, senior vice president of Nissan and president of Nissan Arc.

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