Partnerships will make business sparks fly says Nissan

Nissan is on the hunt for partners to share in a vision that goes beyond mobility solutions and extends into earning revenues for its car owners.

During the third Nissan Futures strategy event, this time in Norway’s capital city of Oslo, the carmaker launched its new home charging programme that offers the promise of free electric energy for households owning any Nissan Leaf or eNV200 van made since 2012.

The key lies in these vehicles’ bi-directional charging technology which allows spare energy to flow from the vehicle into the national electric grid. A pilot scheme run using eNV200 vans in Denmark revealed a €40 (£36) a week revenue stream per vehicle – essentially giving the household free electric energy for both the home and the vehicle.

Yet this is only the beginning of business opportunities for imaginative partners, Nic Thomas global EV director for Nissan told TU-Automotive. He sees a myriad of partnership capabilities springing out of Nissan’s latest tie-ups with energy providers happy and able to handle the trade in electricity generated by the modern EV. Thomas said: “The bi-directional charging technology and, for me, that opens up a lot of partner opportunities. Partnerships are the future and we’re seeing more and more of that and we recognise that so it’s great to be announcing some of those with this initiative.”

He envisages a future where energy can be stored and shared much as we do today with computer data. Thomas explained: “Obviously, there are many more partnerships that we are working on but, looking to the future, in the same way we have a data storage Cloud I would like to see and energy storage Cloud. There are lots of people about buying stationary battery packs in their homes to help them manage renewable energy and getting it into the grid and the fluctuations of supply and demand of electric energy. Yet, for me, if we have hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles driving around, themselves collectively creating a much bigger battery than you can buy in a stationary pack, then why not just connect all those up?”

Thomas points out that the way the car owning society works today allows for a lot of downtime in energy demand that could be put to better use. He said: “Most of the time the cars are parked up between being used for their essential business or commuting or taking the kids to school. The use of the vehicles for long journeys is actually quite slight. So when they are not being used and we can connect all of those car up, then there’s a benefit to society because you can increase the amount of renewable energy in the grid. Let’s face it, at the moment it’s mostly fossil fuels being burned specifically to serve peaks in demand. If we can supply a couple of hours of supply from all those electric vehicles, then you will offset a lot of the fossil fuel required.

“Also, if you as a customer has spent a significant amount of money on a car then I as a carmaker can connect you to people who will be able to give you money back. Because whenever you don’t need the power you can sell it back to the grid. This is now not just about taking the energy out but also about putting energy back into the grid and selling that spare capacity. So a creating a battery sharing network is very much the future for us.”

Thomas said finding the right partners on this energy sharing journey will be vital to achieving the best business outcome both for Nissan and those partners. He said: “While we have been reaching out to business partners who run their own fleets of vehicles, and this is where our pilot programmes have been based, there are lots of interesting small companies and start-ups who we also are talking to.

“I was in America recently talking to a couple of start-ups in the energy sector discussing the software that is required to exchange energy with the grid and to create these storage Clouds is relatively complex and yet few companies are working on this area. That’s where there is a real opportunity for start-ups and software companies to provide the algorithms that will be needed.”

He added that while the offering to the customer has to be simple to understand and readily accessible, there are many complex challenges to be addressed in the systems needed to provide these services. Thomas explained: “If we are going to build a customer model it needs to be absolutely simple, it needs to be predictable and it needs to provide revenue. To do those three things requires some clever predictive software. There are people doing that already but there remains many, many more opportunities for the smart software guys to get involved.

Thomas conclude that connectivity will also play a vital role and offer up many new business opportunities for the right partnerships. He said: “We provide a good level of connectivity at the moment through our NissanConnect EV app, where you can control the charging, on and off, remote lock/unlock the car, turn on climate control and manage those things. However, this software ability provides opportunities for people to take this further whether that’s in the areas of car-sharing or battery-sharing.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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