by Timothy Hurst
Still reeling from the March earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters, Japan has not only been forced to deal with energy shortages, the island nation has been forced to rethink the security and capacity of its electric grid, as well as the policies necessary to make any substantive changes in it. But boosting capacity from any energy source takes time, no matter how urgently it is needed. One untapped distributed energy source that could provide up to two days of electricity for the average Japanese household and that requires relatively little investment is just sitting in 10,000 driveways and garages across Japan.
More than 6,000 Nissan LEAF electric vehicles and more than 4,000 Mitsubishi i-MiEVs have been sold in Japan and the batteries in these electric cars could be used to provide back-up power for households - as long as that electricity is converted from the direct current (DC) used in the car battery to alternating current (AC) used in households.
While Nissan said last week it hopes to have a commercial version of the LEAF-to-Home system ready for sale in Japan next year, the Mitsubishi system was unveiled earlier this summer. But the problem up until this week, at least, was that a Nissan would not be able to hook up to a Mitsubishi system and vice versa. But this past weekend, Mitsubishi and Nissan announced a plan to address that problem and standardize such a device, The Daily Yomiuri reports.
According to Nissan officials, the LEAFs 24 kilowatt hour (kwh) battery can store enough juice to power the average Japanese household for two days.
Nissan said that home power systems for LEAF owners in other countries including the U.S. are also possible, but the timeline is longer. And because the average home uses substantially more electricity in the U.S. than in Japan, the back-up power provided would not last as long. At least not with the current generation of vehicle batteries.
Toyota, which has been a little late to the EV game as the company focused on developing its hybrid vehicle line, has announced a different kind of solution, making available AC outlets for the 2012 Prius Hybrid. The big difference between the hybrid home power model offered by Toyota and the EV home power model offered by Mitsubishi and Nissan, however, is that the Toyota hybrids can continue to provide electricity as long as there is gas in the tank, essentially turning the vehicle into a generator.
Toyota’s absence from the electric car market will end next year as the Japanese powerhouse automaker will begin selling three plug-in electric vehicles beginning in 2012.Reprinted with permission from Earth & Industry