The rise in demand from electric vehicles (EVs) will put untold pressure on the already constrained grids. Supporting and expanding smart charging infrastructure will not only stabilise the grid but also provide fair prices to customers at times when energy bills are high, says Torben Fog of Spirii
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of FORESIGHT Climate & Energy
Growth in demand for EVs means good things for avoiding climate change, but puts more burden on the network
Europe is currently in the throes of its worst energy crisis since the 1970s. Prices are soaring, supply is low, and the system of energy production, storage and usage is stressed beyond the grid’s capacities.
Add to this disaster the crisis of global warming, with the transportation sector generating around 25% of Europe’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As a global community, we find ourselves in hot water.
That said, EU policies to limit GHG emissions and increasing public awareness of the urgent need to reduce our carbon footprint across a range of industries have resulted in a positive trend: exponential growth in the use and availability of EVs.
And while this spike in clean-energy transportation is certain to have positive effects on climate change, it also puts new pressure on the electricity grid, thanks to a flood of demand from a vast community of vehicles that traditionally have relied on fossil fuels.
WHAT IS AT STAKE
The EV industry finds itself at a crucial crossroads. The challenge is to develop methods to efficiently charge a quickly increasing supply of EVs without putting an untenable load on the global-energy grid. Failing to do so could provoke significant and unprecedented issues for the network and would require major—and costly—infrastructure reinforcements.
While times of crisis often produce conservatism across the political and public sectors, these moments offer profound opportunities for private businesses to lead the way with proactivity and progressive thinking. Smart charging is precisely this kind of solution.
Ultimately, it means more control and increased benefit, for the planet at large and for both sides of the EV-charging equation. Users and operators can mitigate the monumental impact of skyrocketing demand and exploit a more efficient and flexible operation of the energy system.
THE SMART-CHARGING SOLUTION
Volatile electricity prices are making life worse for all of us, across the globe. But the opportunities offered by smart-charging technology guarantee an undeniable win for EV drivers, enabling them to consume power in the fastest, safest and cheapest way possible—while benefitting the planet at the same time.
Unlike traditional charging connections, smart chargers receive a constant stream of live, real-time data from the energy network, which enables remote monitoring of the charger with near-immediate effect.
Inherent to this idea is an ultimately altruistic principle: the notion that the conditioned distribution of energy, one based on considerations including safety regulations, renewable-energy prioritisation and cost efficiency, is in fact beneficial across the board, with advantages reaching every moving part of the energy grid.
The most obvious of these, of course, is the advantage incurred by the EV drivers themselves. The smart charger’s automated technology offers transparent information about network status that allows them to choose when and how to charge, thus obtaining greener and cheaper charging by delaying activation to a period of lower grid usage. Reliable forecasts about future prices also allow drivers to look ahead and plan upcoming charging schedules accordingly.
But smart charging’s benefits extend far beyond the driver. Because this technology helps to moderate the overwhelming demand for electricity, it stabilises the load placed on the network and balances the flow of energy from it, so that the ratio of output from more renewable sources can be prioritised.
Great inroads are currently being made in the area of Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) and Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) solutions as well. These technologies essentially frame the electric car as a battery on wheels, a storage device for energy that can be tapped in moments when the grid is overtaxed and needs energy input, thereby balancing variations in energy production and consumption.
Based on the idea that a car battery can be charged and discharged depending on different signals, V2G technologies enable us to inject stored energy from an EV battery back into the grid as needed, to the benefit of all.
Smart charging technologies also bring myriad benefits and increased revenue possibilities to the providers of the chargers themselves. While traditional pricing methods of offering users a fixed price-per-kilowatt-hour work well when the market is predictable and stable, they fail to ensure revenue for charger providers or fair pricing for drivers in environments like today’s.
Dynamic pricing offers a simple solution to this problem, allowing providers to set their tariff to follow the fluctuations of the market, with a premium on top, therefore aligning their profits with the real-time price of electricity.
This means that they will never undercharge when prices surge or undercharge when prices plummet, thereby creating a fair marketplace that benefits the needs of both provider and user. •
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