By Costas Pitas
LONDON (Reuters) - Nissan is to launch a trial this year to allow electric car owners in Britain to sell electricity back to the National Grid and potentially make money in the process.
Major car makers are investing heavily in electric cars and in Europe many countries have incentive schemes to get more people to buy them, including Norway, the Netherlands, France and Britain.
Around 3 percent of cars sold in Britain last year were alternative fuel models - primarily plug-in hybrid and electric cars - but sales have risen 24 percent so far this year, with manufacturers seeking to attract buyers in an increasingly competitive market.
Nissan said on Tuesday its trial with multinational power company Enel would be the first of its kind in Britain and involve 100 vehicle-to-grid units for private and business customers, which will allow them to sell back electricity to energy system operator National Grid.
"The value to the consumer is they can draw energy off-peak, so during the night," chairman of Nissan Europe Paul Willcox told Reuters. He said people could use that energy to power the car or use it to sell it back to the grid during peak time when they can make some revenue.
Nissan, which built almost a third of Britain's total car output last year, said private and fleet owners of its compact Leaf model and e-NV200 electric van would have the chance to take part in the trial later this year.
Britain's National Grid could face an increase in demand if electric cars become more widespread, but it could also benefit from the Nissan program if it encourages more consumers to reduce their power use during peak times.
National Grid has had to take steps to secure the country's energy supply following closures at coal-fired plants due to environmental regulations, which have shrunk Britain's generating capacity over the last few years.
"It’s our job to future proof the national transmission network," National Grid Non-Executive Director and former CEO Steve Holliday said.
"The rapid uptake of electric vehicles is certainly positive yet could also be challenging if we don’t plan ahead."
(Reporting by Costas Pitas. Editing by Jane Merriman)