The rising sale of electric vehicle (EV) has given rise to the question of how governments, power grid operators and charging companies will allow the charging of tens of millions of vehicles without crashing local networks or spending billions upgrading the grid.
Turns out smart charging is the answer to this million dollar question. Smart charging will allows EV owners to plug in during expensive peak hours, without the vehicle drawing power until off-peak hours, easing the load on the electric grid.
Without resorting to Smart Charging, Europe’s local power grid is likely to see blackouts with 65 to 130 million vehicles plugging in to the grid, according to an estimate by audit firm EY.
“The shift to electric will be nigh on impossible without smart charging,” said Chris Pateman-Jones, CEO of British EV charger company Connected Kerb.
Jones made the comments while demonstrating a pilot project on public chargers in Hackney, a London borough.
Using Connected Kerb’s smartphone app you can set your charging speed, charge time and exact price down to a low, slow “Eco” rate of 26 U.S. cents (19 pence) per kilowatt.
“It’s so much cheaper and simpler,” said Ged O’Sullivan, 65-year-old pub owner who cut his plug-in hybrid’s charging bill by 30% with Connected Kerb.
However, smart charging infrastructure for public chargers is a major challenge since so few are available for consumers who cannot charge at home since they park on the street.
According to a report from EY and Eurelectric, Europe will need 9 million public chargers by 2035.
In the near future, we are also likely to see “bidirectional” or “vehicle-to-grid” charging, with millions of EV owners selling their EV batteries’ charge back to grid operators during peak hours.
According to British energy regulator, Ofgem, despite the fact Britain has wide availability of smart charging facilities at home many EV owners are unaware it exists
In the US only a tiny fraction of utilities offer it, according to Smart Electric Power Alliance. Furthermore, today, only few cars are equipped with bidirectional charging capability, although upcoming modes will have the capability.
“Most cars, at this point, do not support this bidirectional charging yet,” said Robin Berg, CEO of We Drive Solar, which has supplied hundreds of bidirectional chargers for a pilot project in the central Dutch city of Utrecht and worked with Renault SA and Hyundai Motor Co on their vehicles.
“Other carmakers will follow.”
In 2021, nearly 12% of new cars sold in Britain were fully electric while in the Netherlands that figure is nearly 20%.
State support has placed Norway at the forefront of electrification, where EVs made up almost three-quarters of sales in Oslo. Some local substations were built in the 1950s and without smart charging Oslo would need massive, costly grid upgrades.
“To handle this we need smart charging solutions because we don’t want to over-invest in the grid,” said Sture Portvik, who heads Oslo’s charging infrastructure efforts.
By 2030, Connected Kerb aims to install 190,000 on-street chargers in the UK, enabling it to predict consumer charging patterns for grid operators and offer lower rates when the available renewable energy is abundant, said Pateman-Jones.
“Today when there’s too much wind on the grid, wind farms are told to turn the wind turbines off,” said O’Sullivan. “With smart charging we can pull more of that power.”
“The perception is smart charging at home is a done deal,” said Charlie Cook, CEO of Rightcharge, a UK firm that helps EV owners find low tariffs. “But the reality is awareness of these tariffs is surprisingly low.”
According to Rightcharge’s estimates, smart charging could save UK drivers $13.5 billion (10 billion pounds) by 2030.
According to an estimate by utilities group the Smart Electric Power Alliance, only 50 out of 3,000 U.S. utilities offer smart charging.
Bidirectional charging capability is likely to be crucial.
“The whole idea behind bidirectional charging is to balance the grid,” said We Drive Solar’s Berg, who estimates a fully charged EV can power the average home in the Netherlands for a week.
Serge Colle, EY’s global energy resources leader, said smart and bidirectional charging are better than “horrendously expensive” power grid upgrades.
“We can’t possibly open up streets quickly enough to add more copper and do the necessary reinforcement,” said Colle.
According to an estimate by Ofgem, peak power reductions from smart and bidirectional charging by 2050 could match “10 Hinkley Point C Nuclear Plants” – a two-reactor plant under construction in England.
Charger makers like Brisbane, Australia-based Tritium Dcfc Ltd are developing bidirectional chargers.
($1 = 0.7387 pound)
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