Audi joins car makers Tesla, Nissan and Mercedes in batteries for…the home

As more and more electric cars are being sold (over 1 million last year with projections of 10 million on the road by 2020) more and more solutions are being investigated to address not only the convenience of charging the vehicles, but how they interact with the owner’s home – and the electric grid as a whole.

As part of a research project, Audi is running a pilot project with households in the Ingolstadt area of Germany and Switzerland’s Zurich region. Working in conjunction with other partners, it involves combining various sizes of photovoltaic systems with stationary storage batteries.

As well storing power from the photovoltaic systems (solar panels), storing the power and charging your car, the pilot project will also be testing how the system interacts with the grid. Over a built-in communication interface, all systems are interconnected to form a virtual power plant, and constitute a smart grid.

Smart connected home storage device like this can provide what is known as balancing power, balancing out the fluctuations between power generation and consumption. They actually become an extension of the bigger electric system, just like a company using power or a coal or gas fired generator.

The battery temporarily stores smaller amounts of energy that the other users can draw from through the existing power lines and infrastructure. They help to balance out the fluctuations between power generation and consumption, and stabilize the grid frequency. 

The control software by the Zurich start-up company Ampard distributes the solar power intelligently based on the current or plannable demand from car, household and heating system.

There are also, obviously benefits for the car/battery/solar system owner. They can increase their proportion of own-use solar power while cutting their costs of buying from those utility generators.

“We are looking at electric mobility in the context of an overall energy supply system that is increasingly based on renewables. That is now for the first time also possible down at the level of individual households, which helps balance the entire power grid,” remarked Dr. Hagen Seifert, Head of Sustainable Product Concepts at Audi.

Tesla has its PowerWall, there is the Mercedes-Benz Energy Storage Home, and Nissan also just entered this home battery market.

Nissan is also working in the UK with smart energy/tech company OVO on a similar concept, except it works with the car’s battery rather than a battery in the home. The Nissan Leaf owner could charge the car late at night with low demand low price electricity, then leave the car plugged in so they can sell it back to the grid when necessary. In an ideal world, the price differential would at least mean you don’t have to pay for electricity – and you could maybe even fund your car!

Photo: Audi

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