Nissan, GE Join Forces to Tackle EV Smart Charging



How can the next-generation electric grid support millions of EVs charging at the same time? What kind of wirting will homes need for fast EV charging? These are just a few of the pressing questions that the auto industry needs to figure out before launching a full-scale fleet of EVs on the market. To that end, GE and Nissan announced a collaboration this week to research the integration of EVs with homes and buildings as well as EV charging dynamics with the grid.

The partnership makes sense–GE is already working on smart grid dynamics with its ecomagination initiative, and Nissan is set to release the all-electric LEAF later this year. GE researcher Matt Nielson lists some of the problems that Nissan and GE have to tackle on his blog:

– Home wiring. Will the vehicle owner’s house have the proper wiring already installed to support vehicle charging? Will it only be adequate for slower Level 1 (120V) charging? Will they need to upgrade? If an electrical upgrade is required, how long will it take to get a permit? How much will it cost? What about people that don’t have a garage? Where will they locate the charger and the wiring?

– Charging programs available. There is discussion about the possibility of offering discounted electrical charging rates for vehicle owners. How do they find out about these rates? How do they sign up for the programs? Do they have the right metering infrastructure in their house to permit the separate measurement of electrical energy delivered to the vehicle?

– Vehicle cost. The vehicle OEMs are working hard to offer an attractive product and an affordable cost. The battery systems for these vehicles are still expensive. How will this impact the overall vehicle cost? What is the true pathway to lower cost battery systems and at what rate will this happen?

– Cable management. The cord that connects the vehicle to the charging station could pose tripping hazards. I know that my own garage is not always clean and tidy (the case most of the time). I could easily see a cord left on the floor.

Clearly there is plenty of work to be done–much more than can happen within the time span of GE and Nissan’s three year Memorandum of Understanding. The partnership does, however, highlight the need for further collaboration on EV technology between different industries. We can already see the beginnings of it with Ford and Microsoft, which recently joined up to put Microsoft Hohm energy management technology in Ford EVs. Now imagine if Ford, Nissan, Microsoft and GE all collaborated on bettering the smart charging infrastructure. It sounds unlikely, but such a collaboration would benefit all parties involved–including us.



About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more