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When The Power Grid Runs Low, Your EV’s Battery Could Help

A trial program in the U.K. lets Nissan Leaf owners draw on the car’s bi-directional charging to help stabilize power supplies.

Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

The Nissan Leaf sitting in Paul Kershaw’s driveway outside Cambridge, England, might look like just another car, waiting for its driver to take it for a spin. But the electric vehicle has been more than a means of transportation. It’s also powered appliances, streetlights and other grid-reliant machinery in the neighborhood.

The exchange of power is part of a trial launched in 2019 by Ovo Energy Ltd., the U.K.’s second biggest energy supplier. When Kershaw heard about the program, he applied to be one of 330 people to register his car as an energy-storage device. “I use my car only 1% of the time so knowing that my car is there, and it’s active and it’s doing something, it’s being used to balance the grid,” Kershaw said, “it’s great knowing that.”The one key requirement: to own a Nissan Leaf. The model, first introduced in 2010, is the only passenger EV in production that offers what is known as vehicle-to-grid capability – essentially, a bi-directional or two-way flow of electricity allowing an owner to charge up the battery or to draw on that when it’s needed by the grid.