Smart charging may be the key to saving the power grid in the world of electric vehicles
LONDON/UTRECHT, Netherlands, Feb 14 (Reuters) – As electric vehicle (EV) sales surge, the big question for power grid operators, charging companies and governments is how to make electric vehicles work. tens of millions of vehicles without crashing local networks or spending billions on network upgrades.
The answer: smart charging.
Simply put, smart charging software allows EV owners to plug in during expensive peak hours, without the vehicle consuming power until cheap off-peak hours. This reduces pressure on the power grid, makes better use of renewable energy and saves drivers money.
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Without it, millions of electric vehicle owners plugging in after work – audit firm EY estimates that Europe will have 65 million electric vehicles by 2030 and 130 million by 2035 – could overload local networks , causing power outages.
“Going electric will be next to impossible without smart charging,” Chris Pateman-Jones, CEO of British electric vehicle charger company Connected Curb, told Reuters when demonstrating a pilot project on the chargers. public in Hackney, a borough of London.
Using Connected Curb’s smartphone app, you can set your charging speed, charging time and exact price down to a low and slow “Eco” rate of 19 pence (26 US cents) per kilowatt.
“It’s so much cheaper and easier,” said Ged O’Sullivan, a 65-year-old pub owner who cut his plug-in hybrid’s charging bill by 30% with Connected Curb.
Smart charging for public chargers is a big challenge because there are so few for people who can’t charge at home because they park on the street. Read more
According to a report by EY and Eurelectric, Europe alone will need 9 million public charging stations by 2035, up from 374,000 today. Read more
The near future is also expected to bring “two-way” or “vehicle-to-grid” charging, where millions of EV owners could resell the juice from their EV batteries to grid operators during peak hours.
Even in Britain, where smart home charging is widely available, many electric vehicle owners are unaware of its existence, according to UK energy regulator Ofgem. In the United States, only a tiny fraction of utilities offer it, according to utility group Smart Electric Power Alliance.
And few cars today alongside the upcoming Ioniq model from Renault and Hyundai are capable of two-way charging – although more are to come.
“Most cars, at this point, don’t support this two-way charging yet,” said Robin Berg, CEO of We Drive Solar, which supplied hundreds of two-way chargers for a pilot project in the central Dutch city of ‘Utrecht and worked with Renault SA. (RENA.PA) and Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS) on their vehicles. “Other manufacturers will follow.”
Almost 20% of new cars sold in the Netherlands and almost 12% in Britain in 2021 were fully electric.
State support has put Norway at the forefront of electrification, where electric vehicles accounted for nearly three-quarters of sales in the capital Oslo. Some local substations were built in the 1950s and without smart charging Oslo would need massive and costly grid upgrades.
“To manage this, we need smart charging solutions, because we don’t want to overinvest in the grid,” said Sture Portvik, who leads Oslo’s charging infrastructure efforts.
“AWARENESS IS LOW”
Connected Curb aims to have 190,000 street chargers in the UK by 2030, which will allow it to predict consumer charging patterns for grid operators and offer lower tariffs when renewable energy available is plentiful, Pateman-Jones said.
“Today, when there is too much wind on the grid, wind farms are told to turn off the wind turbines,” he said. “With smart charging, we can get more out of that power.”
Some UK energy providers already offer low off-peak rates for smart home charging, but few EV owners use them.
“The perception is that smart home charging is a done deal,” said Charlie Cook, CEO of Rightcharge, a UK company that helps EV owners find low rates. “But the reality is that awareness of these tariffs is surprisingly low.”
Rightcharge estimates smart charging could save UK drivers £10 billion ($13.5 billion) by 2030.
UK car dealership network Lookers (LOOK.L) guides electric vehicle buyers to the Rightcharge website to check out their options.
Lookers business development manager Andrew Hall said “early adopters” electric vehicle buyers are “pretty savvy when it comes to smart charging”.
“But that’s changing as electric vehicle sales increase,” he added.
The utility group Smart Electric Power Alliance estimates that only 50 of 3,000 US utilities offer smart charging.
US chargers from EV charging company ChargePoint (CHPT.N) can all be smart-charged, but they want more utilities to offer it.
“We see a lot of positive feedback from customers when their utility offers these rates,” said Anthony Harrison, ChargePoint’s North American utility partnerships manager.
Charging provider Blink Charging Co (BLNK.O) has a flat rate until smart charging becomes widely available.
“We decided to keep things simple for our customers,” said Michael Farkas, CEO of Blink.
Two-way charging can be crucial.
“The idea behind two-way charging is to balance the grid,” said We Drive Solar’s Berg, who estimates that a fully charged electric vehicle can power an average home in the Netherlands for a week.
Serge Colle, global head of energy resources at EY, said smart, two-way charging is better than “horribly expensive” power grid upgrades.
“We can’t open the streets fast enough to add more copper and do the necessary reinforcement,” Colle said.
Regulator Ofgem estimates peak power reductions from smart, two-way charging by 2050 could be equivalent to “10 Hinkley Point C nuclear power stations” – a twin-reactor station under construction in England.
The US market has more than 10 vehicle-to-network pilot projects using school buses underway.
California-based network vehicle company Nuvve Holding Corp (NVVE.O) has formed Levo, a joint venture with private equity firm Stonepeak – which has invested $750 million – to allow owners of electric vehicle fleets to sell electricity to utilities.
“Because our customers are able to generate revenue, we are able to reduce the total cost of ownership of these vehicles, sometimes without impacting costs,” said Nuvve CEO Gregory Poilasne.
Charger makers like Tritium Dcfc Ltd (DCFC.O), based in Brisbane, Australia, are also developing bi-directional chargers.
CEO Jane Hunter said Tritium will launch a fast-charging, two-way wall unit in 2023 for fleets and homeowners.
More and more car manufacturers are adopting bi-directional charging. Ford Motor Co (FN) has partnered with solar energy company Sunrun Inc (RUN.O) to use its F-150 Lightning pickup truck to power homes.
But Oslo has invested extra money in two-way charger pilots because it believes in the concept. So far, however, he has been disappointed that more automakers have yet to introduce vehicles capable of feeding power back into the grid.
“The limits of two-way charging have been the automakers,” said infrastructure chief Portvik. “Major automakers need to step up.”
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Reporting by Nick Carey in London, Anthony Deutsch in Utrecht, Netherlands, and Tina Bellon in Austin, Texas Editing by Matthew Lewis
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.