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Will vehicle-to-grid energy storage become a moneymaker for EV owners?

Nissan and Enel experiment with electric cars for grid storage, ahead of mass EV adoption

The prospect of paying for using charging stations isn’t as unpleasant as the anxiety of finding a station in the first place for some electric car owners. But as EVs and charging stations propagate, the opposite situation may emerge as charging stations will pay EV owners for selling juice back to the power grid.

The concept of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) mobile energy storage is a looming reality due to the fact that EVs are an excellent source of energy storage, something to which power companies do not have ready access. This makes fleets of EVs attractive as providers of energy, especially when there are a lot of them.

Nissan is among the first automakers to test vehicle-to-grid on a significant scale: The company has partnered with multinational power company Enel in Italy and the U.K., allowing EV owners to sell stored energy from their cars back to the power company. Nissan and Enel have installed 100 V2G units at private residences and at EV fleet parking lots, allowing owners to charge their EVs at low-demand periods when prices are low, then sell excess energy back to the grid during high-demand, higher-price periods, generating income for EV owners.

Nissan estimates that if all 18,000 Nissan EVs, including the Leaf and the e-NV200, were all connected to a V2G network, they could produce the equivalent of a 180-megawatt power plant. And if all cars in the U.K. were electric, their combined output could power the U.K., France and Germany taken together.

With the U.K.’s plans to phase out the sale of gas and diesel cars by 2040, that’s not as futuristic a concept as it sounds. This makes building an advanced EV power infrastructure with V2G capability a priority.

This concept has a few caveats: It takes hundreds of EVs for a V2G network to become a profit-producing operation, one with its own fixed costs (the V2G chargers themselves), and EV batteries that aren’t easily degraded by frequent charge and depletion cycles. Current lithium-ion batteries aren’t fond of repeated depletion, which means battery technology still needs to advance before all EVs will be safe to use for energy storage.

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