While the traditional fossil fuel vehicle is pretty much a dead weight when it’s not in use, electric cars offer promise of increased utility. Automakers have been on a roll finding – and implementing – novel ways of integrating the electric car into our lives. Ford’s foray into sustainable energy partnership with SunPower is one just positive step forward. On August 2nd, Nissan took a similarly bold step forward in increasing the utility of electric cars in our lives with the introduction of the Leaf to Home system.
The process uses the Leaf’s 24kWh (killowatt hour) battery to power a house. Through the system, the Leaf battery connects to the home power distribution panel using a special connector linked to the Leaf’s standard charging port. The power control system is a two way design that can be used to charge the Leaf conventionally, but in the advent of a brown or blackout, the Leaf’s battery returns electricity to the home. Designed for Japanese homes, which use an average of 12kWh of electricity a day, the Leaf to Home system would barely supply an energy voracious American home for a day (typical American homes suck down 30kWh of juice daily).
Nissan is working with commercial partners to produce the system, and expect production by the end of the year. With the recent disruption in electricity production in Japan as a result of the Tohuku Earthquake, and ensuing shutting down of nuclear power stations, Japanese households have been subjected to brownouts and blackouts with increasing frequency. Nissan hopes the Leaf to Home system can help alleviate the effect of these occurrences. Nissan also believes this two way system could also be beneficial in reducing overall household electricity consumption, providing energy back to the grid during peak demand during the day (if the car isn’t being used) and recharging the battery at night when demand is low. In conjunction with sustainable energy production methods such as solar, it could reduce a household’s demand to zero in certain circumstances.
Hopefully other manufacturers take heed of Nissan’s system and partner with other household energy providers to bring out more systems like this. By making the car become an integral part of the energy usage composition of a home, households can take a major step forward in reducing their energy consumption. Considering the number of households with cars, the impact could be significant. The downside to this system is how starkly consumptive American households are with electricity. Reducing our home consumption, adding renewable energy sources such as solar – and cleverly making our vehicles do more work than just burn energy could radically reshape domestic energy concerns. Of course the installation and construction of these systems means more jobs too. In this difficult economic climate, that’s something everyone can agree on.