The world’s most popular electric car — the five-seat Nissan LEAF hatchback — was designed to be the ideal family-friendly plug-in for urban and suburban life, carrying out daily duties like the school run, errands and commutes on just a single overnight charge.
But now thirteen Nissan LEAFs have left family life at home and joined the U.S. Air Force, working with a fleet of 29 other plug-in vehicles as part of the largest vehicle to grid project the world has ever seen.
Vehicle to grid technology — where electric cars can both draw and provide power to an electrical grid in response to grid demand patterns — has traditionally been overlooked by world governments, power companies and automakers. But since the devastating tsunami and earth quake that hit Japan in spring 2011, there’s been a renewed interest in using electric vehicles as emergency backup power supplies in the event of a disaster or feeding power back to the electrical grid in response to high grid demand.
And it’s something that could prove useful in both civilian and military contexts.
Partnering with the State of California and Souther California Edison, the U.S. Air Force Base in Los Angeles has become the first federal facility to replace its entire general-purpose fleet with plug-in vehicles, comprising of a range of different vehicles from all-electric cars like the LEAF to plug-in sedans, pick up trucks and minivans.
Alongside the other vehicles already on the fleet, the newly conscripted Nissan LEAFs will be called into daily service as cars, providing transportation to military personnel in and around the Los Angeles AFB. When not being used for transportation duties however, they will be plugged into a suite of specially-designed two-way charging stations via their built-in CHAdeMO DC quick charging port.
Using the same protocols as Nissan has demonstrated in the past with both its Vehicle to Home emergency backup power solution and Vehicle-to-Office projects, the Air Force charging stations will both charge up the battery packs of the LEAFs during periods of low demand and also feed the power back to the grid during peak energy usage.
Although the exact specifications of the U.S. Air Force’s V2G system are unknown, if we assume each LEAF can provide 6 kilowatts of instantaneous power through the specially-built charging stations– the discharge limit of Nissan’s own vehicle-to-grid systems — all 13 LEAFs could theoretically provide 78 kilowatts of power to the electrical grid for nearly four hours from all thirteen fully-charged battery packs.
If we assume the other 29 vehicles in the project have similar capabilities, the total installation V2G output power would be more than 252 kilowatts of instantaneous power.
While the Los Angeles AFB is the first U.S. Air Force base to make use of vehicle-to-grid technology on this kind of scale, the U.S. Air Force says the Department of Defence Plug-in Electric Vehicle Program will be rolling out similar projects at the Fort Hood, Texas; Joint Base Andrews, Maryland; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey and Mountain View Army Reserve Centre in California over the coming months.
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