9 Dec 21

Why must EVs become a part of the power grids?

The surge in EV adoption is good news but underlines the importance of installing the required infrastructure for millions of electric vehicles in the future. 

The EV infrastructure will depend on charging stations, as new generation smart power grids must integrate with EVs and buildings to provide the optimum energy flow. 

Since the 2000s, Europe has taken a giant leap in switching to EVs and the development of EV infrastructure. According to the European Wind Energy Association, power grids had only a 20-20% chance of not facing instability risk when loaded with the maximum amount of renewable energy in 2005. 

According to Eurostat, wind power is the leading renewable energy source in Europe with 426 TWh of output as of 2020 and is expected to rise to 483 GW in 2050. But like all other renewable energy sources, wind energy supply fluctuates, increasing the risk of instability in traditional power grids through renewable and decentralized energy sources. 

The best stationary charger

Research funded by the RAC Foundation in 2021 found that the average car or a van in Britain is parked 23 hours a day. Interestingly, this figure hasn't changed since 2012, according to another search of the RAC Foundation. In the same year, the average car in Britain was parked at home 80% of the time and elsewhere 16%. These figures cast some light on the versatility of EVs, as they are becoming a part of the power grid besides transportation. 

The International Energy Agency (IEA) figures reveal the significant rise in the global EV sales by 140% in the first half of 2021, compared to the same period in 2020. And according to the International Energy Association (IEA), by 2030, the global electric vehicle number will be between 140-240 million. Taking the minimum threshold into account would mean an aggregated storage capacity of 7 TW/h, according to vehicle-to-grid (V2G) solution provider Virta. 

Eventually, EVs are on the way to becoming the best stationary energy storage devices to draw energy from the power grid when there's a peak load and load energy when there's an off-peak load in a power grid. The V2G infrastructures draw energy from batteries of EVs and send it to the power grid, where it is conveyed to the nearest location demanding supply throıugh distribution centres. 

What are the plans of the EU? 

The ambitious electrification plans set by the European Commission under "the fit for 55 package" require the upgrade of charging infrastructure and buildings to enable charging for everyone. 

One of the main goals of the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation proposed under the package is to deploy EV charging infrastructure to all parking spaces in non-residential buildings. The target is 30% EV compatibility for the existing buildings by 2030. 

The compatibility of buildings to V2G charging infrastructure will be crucial to overcome energy overloads and allocate supply accordingly to demand in larger residential areas. Most importantly, V2G integrated smart power grids will leverage the renewable energy supply and eliminate the risk of instability today. 

Millions of charging stations needed 

One of the biggest obstacles Europe has to surmount on electrification is the lack of charging stations. Figures provided by ACEA show that 18 EU members have under five charging points per 100km of road. 

According to European Alternative Fuels Observatory (EAFO), the number of charging stations in Europe reached 175.000 at the end of 2019, while the number of EVs jumped from 670.000 in December 2017 to 1.3 million in November 2019, reflecting an 89% increase in two years. 

All vehicle sales in Europe and the rest of the world are expected to be fully electric by 2040. According to The Global Battery Alliance, 290 million charging stations will be required by the same year, equaling a global investment of almost €442 billion ($500 billion). There's no doubt that V2G technology and expanding charging infrastructure will be crucial to support European and global clean energy and climate goals. 

Photo of an EV charging station, courtesy of Shutterstock.

Authored by: Mufit Yilmaz Gokmen