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5 Sep 19

“Smart charging will make EVs cheaper than most fleets realize”

The EV wave will come crashing down in the coming years, but there is a huge lack of knowledge of the ecosystem and the infrastructure. In fact, e-mobility will pay for the grid upgrading costs, says Marcus Fendt, MD of The Mobility House. His mission: providing fleets with this knowledge and making EVs work.

EVs are expected to boom in the coming years. Will our grid be able to cope?

MF: “On the one hand, as energy gets more and more renewable, we are faced with more volatility. On the other, e-mobility is gaining momentum and is projected to largely replace ICE in the coming decade. That is a huge advantage: EVs have storage capacity. That storage is unutilised today, even though EVs are not driving for 90% of the time. When they are parked, their batteries can be used to absorb power from the grid when it is plentiful. In the opposite case, when the grid needs power, EVs can discharge some of their kWh into the grid and earn money from that. By plugging in your EV as much as you can, we have seen savings of over 1,000 euros per year in projects. Smart charging will make EVs much cheaper than most fleets realize today.”

That seems promising, but will probably require a hefty investment in infrastructure?

MF: “Not necessarily. Everything starts behind the meter. If you connect several cars behind one metering point, you will nearly always run into power limitations. You can either extend your grid or you can charge smart by using load management software. That is the first step. The second step is to look at the idle time of your EVs and decide whether you want to market your battery to the energy market. The implementation might take a few years and depends on the car manufacturer and the country, because it is a regulatory affair.”

How can you budget and control the cost of charging?

MF: “In the case of corporate charging, the cars can be charged during office hours. Only if the vehicles are operational all the time and require short charging times and hence more power do you need to consider a grid extension. In condominiums people all want to charge their cars at the same time: after work. That is not a problem either, because they usually do not need a full charge. In most cases, between 5 and 8 kWh will do because their commute is between 20 and 50km. That means every car needs to charge between 20 and 60 minutes, depending on the output. That’s manageable with an intelligent load management, even if there are many cars that need to be charged overnight.”

How do you know which infrastructure you need?

MF: “You start by analysing the driver profiles. If you know how far they drive, when they drive and especially when they don’t drive, you get a good idea of what you need to provide to enable your vehicles to charge optimally. The next step is to verify if your grid connexion needs upgrading or not. If that is the case, you need to know that it can easily take a year before you’re good to go: grid operators processes are not fast and the works require a lot of administrative preparation.”

What about the cost of a grid extension?

MF: "It differs heavily all over Europe. In Munich, each kW you request from the grid operator costs about €100 in the shape of an upfront one-time fee. So if you have 10 Renault Zoés, for example, and you want to charge them simultaneously with 22kW, you need a 220kW connection, which will cost €22,000 upfront. This might still look feasible and should be considered as a long-term investment which you write off over years, but there is another element to consider: peak demand charges. You don’t want to charge all your cars at the same time, because that would cause a consumption spike, for which the grid operator again asks money."

What is your role in the smart grid?

MF: "Besides the load distribution software – the part behind the meter – we also manage the part before the meter. Grid operators delegate The Mobility House to manage and distribute the available power towards different large consumers, like condominiums, to avoid peaks. Grid operators are like banks: they don’t have all the money they have lent, but not all customers request their money at the same time. Technologically the challenges are feasible, the major challenges to create in front of the meter values are actually regulatory."

What would be your key take-away for fleets?

There is no technical obstacle to implement e-mobility anymore. It’s coming. What companies and drivers need is transparency about the new topics beyond the vehicle and that’s where OEMs, e-mobility consultancy firms like The Mobility House and media such as Fleet Europe have an important role to play.  

Authored by: Dieter Quartier