A team from The Australian National University is to lead a trial of 50 Nissan Leaf electric vehicles to test how they can act as mobile batteries for the grid, and the potential creation of an EV fleet that could deliver five times the storage of Snowy Hydro 2.0.
The two-year trial has been dubbed the Realising Electric Vehicles-to-grid Services (REVS) and is backed by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and is the biggest effort to date in Australia to see how EVs can become a valuable resource for the grid, rather than a potential load problem.
It will comprise 50 Nissan Leaf EV in the ACT Government fleet and one from the fleet of local utility ActewAGL and will seek to demonstrate the feasibility of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) services – and will include social and economic factors, as well as technical.
The new generation Nissan Leafs – which first appeared in Australia last year – are the only EV available in Australia with factory settings that allow for V2G services, and this trial will be important as it prepares to release that option to Nissan Leaf owners later this year,
“We know V2G works in the lab but we need to demonstrate the reliability and viability of V2G services in the real world at scale,” said research lead Dr Bjorn Sturmberg, from the ANU’s Battery Storage and Grid Integration Program.
“We need to prove the control, coordination, and cybersecurity of the technology systems, as well as the crucial business and regulatory models to make V2G attractive to all stakeholders.”
This will be by far the biggest such trial in Australia to date, and one of the biggest in the world, and made easier by the fact that the vehicles come from a fleet owner that is taking part in the trial.
Nissan Australia managing director Stephen Lester says there have been several successful trials conducted in overseas markets, but realising it in Australia is an important milestone.
Lester sees a future where Australian homes can essentially be off the grid, transforming electric vehicles from vehicles to mobile energy solutions. For customers with solar panels, the Leaf’s 40kWh battery can store solar during the day and then use that energy to supply home’s power needs at night.
Alternatively, customers who use a workplace or public site to charge their vehicles can then use that power to supply their homes. A parked car could even become a revenue-generating asset for its owner by providing support to the energy grid by feeding power back into the grid and providing ancillary services.
“With more people working from home currently, with a Nissan LEAF in the driveway, a household could significantly reduce their power bills by using their vehicle as a battery,” Lester says. And if they have solar panels, they can maximise their use of renewable energy, and still have an exciting zero-emissions car to drive.”
Sturmberg says the trial will leverage the state-of-the-art grid simulation facility at the ANU called the Distributed Energy Resources (DER) Lab.
“This will allow the charger to be rapidly prototyped to respond to the frequency disturbances that occur when the grid is on the brink of a blackout.” But he says the ultra-fast reactions of EV batteries – like those deployed at the Tesla big battery at Hornsdale in South Australia – make them extremely adept at balancing the grid.
“One EV battery typically contains as much energy as an average household uses over two-to-four days and can react to events in a tenth of a second,” he said.
“If all of Australia’s 19 million vehicles were electric, they would store more energy than five Snowy 2.0s, or over 10,000 Tesla Big Batteries.”
ARENA chief executive Darren Miller says the trial will look at the ability of EVs to provide frequency and ancillary services to the grid – an essential tool traditionally supply by coal, gas and hydro plants, but increasingly in recent times by big batteries such as Hornsdale and others big batteries, as well as household batteries as part of virtual power plants.
“The project will be the first time that a fleet of vehicles using bi-directional chargers will supply FCAS to the NEM and thereby provide services that improve energy security and avoid blackouts,” he said in a statement.
“It will also be the first time an EV fleet will be paid for providing electricity services, testing new revenue streams that could improve the total cost of ownership of EVs. Fleets make up more than half of all new vehicles sold annually in Australia and the results of this trial will help inform future procurement choices of private and public sector fleet managers.
The 51 Nissan EVs will bbe used normally during business hours but will be plugged in when not on the road, which allows for approximately 70 per cent availability for providing grid services.
“Given its potential capability to provide similar services as household batteries, V2G has the opportunity to transform a vehicle into a revenue generating device for consumers, through access to energy and network service markets and also to provide power solutions for the grid.
“As EV uptake grows, this project will help to unlock a future where EVs are just as critical a piece of the electricity sector as the transport sector.”
ActewAGL’s head of product and strategic energy deployments Todd Eagles say the bi-directional flow of energy refers to the ability for an electric vehicle to both draw energy from the grid, and inject it back when needed (for example, when there is a loss of a generator or loss of multiple transmission circuits).
“It’s not just the electricity grid that will benefit from these services. In an Australian-first, the project will demonstrate that electric vehicles have value for customers beyond the primary function of transport,” he says.
“When electric vehicles are plugged into a bi-directional charger, the vehicle owner can be financially rewarded for providing energy back into the grid when it’s needed, making electric vehicles an even more attractive proposition, especially for fleet owners.”
ARENA has put $2.4 million towards the REVS project as part of its Advancing Renewables Program. Other members of the project are ActewAGL, Evoenergy, Nissan, Sgfleet, JET Charge, and the ACT Government.