Nissan and GE have developed a strategic partnership to explore and further develop the idea of the Smart Grid, and what it can mean for the average consumer. We wrote about IBM, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Honda working together toward a similar end just a few days ago. With all of these industrial and automotive heavyweights headed toward a similar goal, we have to think that some positive results will ultimately find their way to the surface.
Some of the items that GE will exhibit include a home energy manager which will communicate wirelessly with smart devices to monitor energy consumption. This system will in turn communicate with a demand management system used by a utility to better manage the load. Nissan will have their own DC quick charger on display. Hopefully we will start to see this unit before too long in our neighborhoods as they already are in Europe. In addition they will be showing the vehicle to home system where the LEAF sends some of its power back into the household if needed. Let’s take a look at how some of this Smart Grid technology might work.
Let’s say that electric vehicles (EVs) have really taken off in your neighborhood. A local grid transformer can handle only so much power. Without these types of management systems in place, if everyone sets their car charge timer to start charging at midnight, the beginning of the least expensive rates, the local transformer might not be able to handle the load. But if all the cars are communicating their current state of charge, and how much each needs to reach its ultimate desired charge (80% or 100% in the case of the LEAF), the Smart Grid could acknowledge the midnight start time but then stage the actual start time of the charge so that each vehicle could reach its desired state of charge and remain within the least expensive rate structure. For instance, quite often we drive very little during the day so we might take only an hour or two to reach our desired 80% charge. If someone else needs several hours to recharge, perhaps our start time would be delayed by an hour or two or more and as other cars charging period ends, our would begin and still remain in the lowest cost rate structure. Without the Smart Grid technology in place this kind of device management just wouldn’t be possible.
This communication could ultimately be tied in to larger home appliances as well, like refrigerators, washers and dryers. Some dishwashers already come with timers that will allow delayed starts until rates are lower in the evening. This concept is taking that idea one step further.
Innovation comes in many ways and sometimes in the most mundane of products – such as dishwashers. But all of these incremental improvements work toward making the whole operate more efficiently. And while these types of technologies may take years to fully develop, that development could coincide with the increasing use and popularity of electric vehicles. Certainly with the research and development minds that are involved in moving this Smart Grid forward we see benefits accruing to everyone that uses electricity – not just electric car owners.