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Nissan partners up for solar EV charging trial

CSIRO, Delta Electronics help Nissan Australia to validate sunny side of EV charging

10 Oct 2019

NISSAN Australia has partnered with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Delta Electronics for a solar electric vehicle (EV) charging research project that is funded by the Victorian government and aims to introduce an off-the-grid solution that can be used on both domestic and industrial levels.


Three solar EV charging stations have been installed at Nissan Australia’s headquarters in Dandenong South, Victoria, as part of a 200-day trial that will assess the technology’s suitability for a public release, which Delta Electronics director David Leal said could happen in the next 12 months.


Each station features a 6kWh battery that can be used to store solar power when not in use, which Nissan Australia national manager of electrification and mobility Ben Warren said is enough top up an electric vehicle driven by the average Australian, who travels about 40km per day.


However, for those people that cover longer distances as part of their daily commute, a 12kWh battery is available as an option for the station, which therefore significantly increases its cost, although Mr Leal could not be drawn on pricing at this final stage of development.


If an EV is charged during the day, solar power is sent straight to its own onboard battery, taking pressure off the grid, especially during the summer peak. That said, Mr Warren said most will be topped up overnight, at which point if the station’s battery becomes depleted, off-peak energy rates can instead be harnessed if set up correctly.


Therefore, while this station’s point of difference is its solar capability, it can also source power from the grid when it needs to, such as on a cloudy day when the connected solar panels are only operating at 20-30 per cent of their capacity, according to CSIRO electromechanical energy systems team leader Christopher Munnings.


Despite the station’s ability to source two forms of power, one of the intended outcomes of the research project is offering Australians who live off the grid an EV charging solution, or even those that reside in areas that would otherwise require upgrades to their existing grid to make topping up a reality.


For the trial at Nissan Australia, each station is capable of charging up to four EVs at a time. Typically, a fleet of the Japanese brand’s second-generation Leafs will be used, with each to take about six hours to top up its 40kWh battery from zero to 80 per cent – if no others are plugged in at the same time.


The station located at the front of the headquarters – typically not accessible to the public – is hooked up to a 5kW solar system, while the two stations found at the rear of the property are connected to a 10kW set-up, with both free to use by anyone.


Having received a $210,000 grant from the Victorian government’s New Energy Jobs Fund for this research project, Delta Electronics manufactures the stations that combine solar system with batteries and EV chargers, while the CSIRO developed a world-first module that integrates these systems to enable multiple EVs to charge quickly, no matter the weather.


Nissan Australia managing director Stephen Lester said the research project serves to highlight not only the environmental advantages of EVs, but the cost savings they bring, especially when the use of renewable energies is maximised.


As such, solar EV charging is viewed by Nissan Australia and its partners as one of the key solutions that will eventually get the mass adoption of zero-emissions vehicles across the line, both Down Under and internationally.


From a Nissan Australia perspective, 30 per cent of its model line-up will be EVs, be they all-electric or hybrid, in the next five years, with solar EV charging stations likely set to be one of the solutions it can offer buyers via its dealer network and in conjunction with Delta Electronics.


At the conclusion of the trial, the data gathered by Nissan Australia, the CSIRO and Delta Electronics will be evaluated, with subsequent tweaks likely to be made to the station’s configuration ahead of the research project’s next steps being announced in the middle of next year.


Mr Munnings said the CSIRO hopes to use these learnings to underpin future development of the station, which will lead to support for three-phase power and DC fast chargers. It currently offers single-phase power and 32A AC chargers only (de-rated to 28A to suit a domestic inverter), with the latter compatible with all EVs currently sold in the Australian market.

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