German Firm Nomadic Power Gets €2 Million To Refine, Commercialize Electric Car Battery Trailer That Doubles as Grid Power Backup

For round-town trips, there’s little that can compete with today’s modern electric cars. They are easy to drive, quiet, and cheap to run, making them ideal for 95 percent of everyday trips. But unless you have a longer-range electric car like the Tesla Model S, or a range-extended electric car like the Chevrolet Volt or BMW i3 REx, then long-distance trips — especially ones off the beaten track — can be something of a challenge, especially if there are no rapid charging stations along your route.

For some electric car owners however, the idea of using a range-extending gasoline or diesel engine is something of the antithesis to the whole idea of an electric car. While many electric car owners will happily use a range-extended electric vehicle or even rent a gasoline car for longer trips, many would prefer to simply add extra battery capacity to their vehicles to make a longer-distance trip more practical.

In the future, Nomadic Power wants to give you a backup battery for your car -- and your home.

In the future, Nomadic Power wants to give you a backup battery for your car — and your home.

Which is where Nomadic Power, a German company with a prototype product called the MobileBattery comes in. Looking like a small camping trailer, the MobileBattery is part range-extending battery pack for long-distance electric car trips and part emergency backup power for your home. And thanks to a European Commission initiative designed to help new companies bring clever products to market, the firm has just received a €2 million ($2.25 million) grant to bring its vision to reality.

As the company detailed in an official statement last week, the award was made to the firm under the European Commission’s “Next Innovation Leader” program, a program which looks specifically for innovative ideas that have the potential with the right support to become flourishing businesses.

Of course, the idea of using a trailer filled with batteries isn’t exactly new to the world of electric cars. In fact, as far back as GM’s EV1, both automakers and enthusiasts alike experimented with various ideas for battery trailers which could be used to give an electric vehicle additional range as well as ‘generator trailers’ and ‘pusher trailers’.

As the name suggests, generator trailers were designed to add an additional power source — usually an efficient gasoline engine operating as a generator — to generate additional electricity to power an electric car on a long trip. Meanwhile, a pusher trailer was designed to literally help push the electric car along, usually using a small, air-cooled engine driving the trailer whees directly. (And if that sounds a little crazy, remember that one of the first people to perfect a pusher trailer was an electric vehicle enthusiast by the name of JB Straubel — who now happens to now be Tesla’s Cheif Technical Officer.)

But where Nomadic Power’s product differs from previous range-extending products for electric cars is its built-in energy management system. Packing an 85 kilowatt-hour battery pack inside a small teardrop trailer, the MobileBattery also features a fully integrated smart grid management system that can connect to Nomadic Power’s own secure platform via an on-board 4G Internet Connection.

When it is connected to an electric vehicle via a specially designed power harness, the MobileBattery feeds supplemental power to the vehicle’s on-board battery pack, thus slowing the rate at which the car’s on-board battery pack depletes and extending overall vehicle range. When connected to a car like a Nissan LEAF, Nomadic Power claims the MobileBattery can extend range from around 100 usable miles to more than 300 in ideal situations.

But when the MobileBattery isn’t needed for vehicular applications, the system can connect to the owner’s home allowing the battery bank to offer up to 85 kilowatt-hours of emergency back up power in the event of grid power disruption. It can also offer two-way grid connectivity if and when required, allowing owners to charge the battery pack during periods of low grid demand and then sell it back to the utility during periods of high demand.

Using its cloud-connected system, Nomadic Power says it can help your local utility grid too.

Using its cloud-connected system, Nomadic Power says it can help your local utility grid too.

Using the on-board telematics system, this can all be done automatically, with no input from the owner required.

So far so good — but we think it’s worth noting that so far, the only real-world demonstration vehicle we’ve seen using Nomadic Power’s system is a previous-generation (turn of the century) Renault Clio Electrique which functioned as the company’s prototype vehicle. It was built under the company’s former name of eBuggy and successfully completed various early stages of real-world testing and was initially designed for a slightly different use.

Under the eBuggy company name, trailers would be rented rather than owned by customers only on long-distance trips. Taking out a yearly membership — similar to joining a car-share club or charging network  — would grant members access to a network of battery trailer swap stations, where customers could swap our depleted trailers for new ones on long-distance trips.

Here at Transport Evolved, we think the new energy model being offered by Nomadic Power is far more appealing to the average user, especially given the general reticence among customers to rent rather than own.

But we’re curious to see what you think. Is a range-extending battery pack for your car that doubles as a battery backup for your home something you’d buy? How much would you spend on it — and what sort of features would you want in a production model?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • Thomas Studer

    Renting seems far more favorable than owning in this case. There is one more function this trailer needs to perform: It needs to be self steering to be a success. Most people have no experience backing up with a trailer. if the product is to have mass appeal it needs to self steer when backing up so that the driver does not have to think about as a trailer.

    • Ezzy

      Oh come on, self-steering trailer? How about 10 minutes of training and you’ll be fine.

      • Thomas Studer

        Your approach is the “blackberry” where the customer has to read the instructions. The self steering approach is the “iPhone” that any user can use intuitively. Both systems work but given business success t is pretty clear what approach customers prefer.
        From a purely practical point of view: look at modern cars rear visibility and look at how low the sketches of the trailer are. I can back up a single axis trailer, if I see it!

        • Ezzy

          So why isn’t the car itself self-steering in the first place?

          • Thomas Studer

            Clearly there is loads of work going on in this area. The reason why the trailer is easier is because the driving responsibility remains with the driver. For fully autonomous vehicles the liability question is still a major hurdle for deployment.

  • Chris O

    I doubt there is even a single all electric car in existence with towing capability, so that’s a problem. Being able to put a home energy storage solution to use to propel one’s car might make those more appealing to people except for the practical problem of finding a place to store an energy storage solution on wheels and the fact that the large storage capacity needed to propel cars will make the concept costly. The 85 KWh trailer mentioned in the article will be pretty expensive, more something people would rent for the occasional roadtrip than actually own.

    Generally I think battery swapping is the more elegant alternative for this.

    • Thomas Studer

      Battery swapping has the issue that the batteries need to be compatible between different car models. With batteries being mounted in different forms in different cars that makes the approach little compelling.

      • Chris O

        I’m not an engineer but it seems to me that as long as the cars have a build in release mechanism that drops the battery on a platform pushed under them and charging is done by induction there is very little need for standardisation.

    • Janner

      Electric cars are perfect towing cars as they have so much low down/instant torque. Imagine a Tesla towing an Airstream with an 85kWHr battery pack i it. Huge range and easy towing – perfect combination.

  • Ben P

    85kWh! Wow! Looks cool. But it’s going to weigh a lot. 85kWh using CALB 180Ah cells would weigh around 1800lbs (~800kg). Even the Tesla pack weighs somewhere around 1300lbs (600kg). That’s a lot of weight to tow with a Leaf, which is already close to its max weight. This trailer and a Leaf would weigh close to 5000lbs (~2300kg)!

    No mention of quick charging either. A battery system like this is begging for a Chademo charge port. No mention of cost. Using the Tesla Powerwall as a guide: 10kWh = $3,500, 80kWh = $28,000. Figuring that the power electronics could be done cheaper in a single unit, you’re still looking at >$20,000 for this trailer. That’s about the same as the after tax credit price of a new Leaf S in the USA.

    I wish them all the success in the world, but I remain skeptical right now.

    • Thomas Studer

      Good points. You have to wonder weather the trailer has its own motor. That would certainly solve the towing issue. I agree on the price being ridiculous for something that will clutter your garage 360 days out of the year. That’s why I only see a rental business as feasible. Pick up and drop off at any participating (gas)station. This way the pack gets cycled often, reducing cost per use and you can swap an empty trailer for a full one and continue right away.

      • Ben P

        Yeah, rental would work great. You really need someone like Uhaul to do it though. You can buy the hitch and have it installed from the same people you rent the trailer from.

        I mentioned Chademo in part because of the Nissan/Endesa Vehicle to Grid box. Buy an 85kWh trailer and have a V2G box installed in your garage. Put the trailer in the corner of the garage, hook it up to the V2G box, and use it like a Tesla Powerwall: backup power, peak shaving, or solar storage. When it’s time for a trip make sure the trailer is all charged up, unhook it from the V2G box, hook it up to your car and away you go!

        I think it might work as a home/small business energy storage device that also travels.

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