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Renault looks at affordable Tesla Powerwall alternative

Power to the people: Renault says smart charging technology will help lower the total cost of ownership for electric vehicle customers, making them more attractive compared with internal combustion equivalents.

EV energy storage and management, ‘second-life’ batteries new Renault focus

Renault logo25 Sep 2017

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI in FRANKFURT

RENAULT’S European electric vehicle sales model of leasing battery packs has enabled it to develop ways of repurposing them at the end of their useful life as a vehicle’s power source.

In Australia, Renault has already conducted a proof-of-concept study for a utility company looking to invest in energy storage and been approached by a motorhome manufacturer interested in using what are known as ‘second life’ batteries to store power for off-grid travel.

The company is also working on app-based ‘smart charging’ technology that will link European EV owners with electricity generation and distribution providers, enabling batteries to be recharged at the most cost-effective off-peak times and help prevent energy networks from being overloaded by charging large numbers of EVs.

In future, smart charging will become bi-directional so that EVs can feed back into the power grid and be used to store cheap off-peak or renewable energy to be used or even sold for a profit during more expensive periods of high demand.

This will help lower the total cost of ownership for EV customers, making them more competitive with internal combustion equivalents.

Despite the interest from Australian motorhome and utility companies, Renault programme director for battery lease and charging infrastructure Nicholas Schottety told Australian journalists at the Frankfurt motor show that he expected it to take some time before the company started offering its energy management solutions here.

“We need to do that step-by-step in the right way so first we need to sell EVs before we can talk about how to sell the second-life batteries, which is why we didn’t yet find the business in Australia,” he said.

By contrast, in Europe Renault has an EV market share of around 25 per cent so the local supply of second-life batteries, desire for smart charging and interest in energy storage is plentiful.

Under Renault’s battery leasing deal, customers get a new battery when the original reaches 75 per cent of its original capacity. While the EV’s driving range has reduced to a less useful level by this point, the ability of the pack’s cells to store energy remains useful for less demanding applications.

Renault global electric car sales and marketing director Guillame Berthier told GoAuto at a media event in Paris earlier this month that a residential energy storage solution built using second-life Renault EV batteries served as a more affordable alternative to Tesla’s Powerwall.

Mr Schottety described the home battery as “the size of a dishwasher” and lacking the Tesla unit’s attractive packaging.

“We did not make it a very designed product that you put on the wall in your living room, it is much more for your garage,” he said.

For solar farms, wind turbines and commercial applications, Mr Schottety said Renault has also created a larger, modular “plug and play” system that is already being rolled out across Europe.

It is also used in some large buildings, including banks, to spread energy loads throughout the day. An example Mr Schottety cited was reducing grid loads from the heavy use of lifts when employees were entering and leaving the building at each end of the working day.

Mr Schottety said energy storage and smart charging will combine to enable more renewable energy sources to power the grid as it will reduce the peaks and troughs of availability.

A number of other electric vehicle manufacturers are already close to implementing similar smart energy sharing solutions, with Honda announcing its version at the Frankfurt show.

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