GE, Nissan Aim to Optimize EVs Electricity Demand

Oct. 2, 2011
Partners researching ways to reduce cars strain on the grid

General Electric Co. and Nissan Americas are engaged in a new partnership they claim will accelerate the development of electric vehicle-charging technology and the infrastructure to support wide adoption of electric cars. Their two-year agreement will parallel Nissan’s ramp-up of domestic production for its Nissan Leaf electric vehicle (EV).

The Leaf is a five-door midsized electric hatchback advertised as a “zero emission” vehicle: the name is an acronym for “Leading, Environmentally friendly, Affordable Family car.” U.S. EPA states the car (which has been available in the U.S. since late 2010) has a fuel economy equivalent to 99 miles per gallon. The automaker plans to begin assembling the EVs at its plant in Smyrna, Tenn., late in 2012.

GE and Nissan named two areas of focus for their research efforts: integrating electric vehicles with homes and buildings; understanding EV charging dynamics and the future impact on the grid once millions of electric cars are on the road.

“As the U.S. and world move toward electric vehicles, the automotive sector is forming new industry connections that extend well beyond the traditional OEM space,” stated Mark Little, senior vice president and director, GE Global Research. “One of the biggest connections being made is with companies that generate and provide electricity. As a major provider of power generation equipment and energy services, GE is in a great position to help the automotive industry bring millions of electric vehicles onto the grid.”

In one project already in progress, GE and Nissan researchers are studying how electric cars can be incorporated into GE’s overall concept for a Smart Home, and Nissan engineers are developing methods to make the EV a more integrated part of the building’s energy equipment. It will look at how an EV affects the home electricity cost and power loads.

Separately, researchers will use aggregate usage data and simulation and modeling to analyze the effect millions of EV could have on the electrical grid.

GE’s research will be done primarily at its global research operations in Niskayuna, N.Y., and Nissan Technical Center North America, in Farmington Hills, Mich., will handle the effort for the automaker.

Nissan researchers are studying two-way power flow between a home and an EV, via a quick-charging port, as a way to reduce the home’s electrical consumption, or to use the vehicle for emergency backup power. GE’s researchers are looking at how charging systems, working with the utility, could achieve charging without straining the grid.

“Connections like this research partnership with GE reinforce Nissan’s commitment to bring zero emission mobility to the mass market,” stated Nissan America/Carla Bailo, senior vice president, Research and Development, Nissan Americas. “GE’s broad expertise with energy networks will help Nissan create better conditions in the market for electric cars like Nissan LEAF, and add value for our customers both now and in the future.”

About the Author

Robert Brooks | Content Director

Robert Brooks has been a business-to-business reporter, writer, editor, and columnist for more than 20 years, specializing in the primary metal and basic manufacturing industries. His work has covered a wide range of topics, including process technology, resource development, material selection, product design, workforce development, and industrial market strategies, among others. Currently, he specializes in subjects related to metal component and product design, development, and manufacturing — including castings, forgings, machined parts, and fabrications.

Brooks is a graduate of Kenyon College (B.A. English, Political Science) and Emory University (M.A. English.)

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