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We Need To Sell Electric Vehicles As More Than Just Clean, Quiet Cars That Don’t Use Expensive Gas

In case the great first selling point isn’t enough, they’re also backup energy sources.

If carmakers are going to sell more electric vehicles, they need to sell people on more than their environmental bona fides or high-powered performance capabilities. They need to sell the extra things that EVs can do, like storing power as part of the electric grid.

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That’s why Nissan is exploring “vehicle-to-grid” (V2G) services in Europe–that is, services where cars become a back-up to the grid energy system. The automaker knows that it needs to up the incentives to make a connection with customers.

“We made [an electric vehicle]”, says Redmer van der Meer, Nissan’s head of overseas programs. “The next step is what more you can do with that asset and what more value you can add for the customer. So, yes, it’s a vehicle. Yes, it’s transport. But it’s also more than that.”


Since Nissan Leaf batteries store significant amounts of power, they’re potentially useful for utilities. If they can draw on EV batteries at peak times, they can increase grid resiliency and reduce the need for other alternative supplies. Nissan has teamed up with Endesa, a big utility in Spain, to work on V2G projects there.

“The people with EVs would have chargers at their home and they could sell energy back to the grid, which means there is a benefit for the energy company,” van der Meer says. “It means the electricity company doesn’t need to built another [power plant] for peak power.”


Nissan has developed Europe’s first commercial bidirectional charging unit, allowing power to go back and forth. The first project with Endesa is likely to be for corporate fleets, where companies could make back money on cars sitting idle in their lots.

Consumers will follow after that. “[People would either get a lower electric bill, or you would sell the car with a device where you are giving energy back to the system–which has value for the energy company and for the vehicle itself,” van der Meer says.

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EVs may be relatively expensive now, but that could change. As storage devices for home solar and mini back-up power units for utilities, they could start to become more attractive.

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About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.

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