Utility load management for future of green vehicles

Energy
| The European | 22nd January 2019
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Power generation by using fossil fuel and nuclear technology are major factors that affect global warming, but the demand for power and energy cannot be met without these “not-clean” methods. The only way to control the adverse effect of power and energy production on Earth’s environment is to invent power and energy load management techniques to ensure that power and energy resources are optimally utilized in daily lifestyle.

The current decade has seen unprecedented growth in sales of Electric Vehicles (EV). Tesla (US) and Nissan (Japan) are at the forefront. Tesla’s ‘Model 3’ has a long list of waiting customers. Nissan’s Leaf is very popular amongst EV drivers. The governments and environmental ministries are working hard to ensure the success of EVs. Manufacturers of EVs are also assisting them in different matters. The core problem these stakeholders are trying to resolve is how to manage the load on power grids once EVs become the de facto standard of road travel.

To understand the necessity for a utility load management program, we need to look at the following questions:

  • What will be the future energy demand when EVs take over cars running on fossil fuel?
  • Will there be an energy demand-supply gap?
  • If yes, then how will it be bridged? (Not-clean or clean sources of energy)
  • If “not-clean” sources will be used to bridge the demand-supply gap, then what will be the net impact on the environment?
  • If wind power or solar energy is used to bridge the demand-supply gap what will be the financial impact?

There is another factor in this equation which is what will happen if many EV owners charge their EVs at “peak” hours? For example, at night electricity is used to light homes and shops. Will the utility grid trip when EV owners plug-in their autos at night?

A solution has been developed by one group of EV stakeholders to address utility load management concerns. The solution has been named as “Vehicle-to-Grid” (V2G) service. V2G makes it possible for power stored in EV batteries to be sold back to the grid.

Centrica plc is a British multinational energy and services company. Its Director of Technology Strategy, Jonathan Tudor, says (Reuters 21 January 2019);

“Winding the clock forward 10-12 years, if consumer behavior stays the same we will see thousands of people arriving home and wanting to charge up their cars at the time that is already peak demand for most countries. V2G will be part of the mix of technologies stabilizing networks – once more EVs hit the road”.

Nissan: At the forefront of design and development of V2G services

Nissan wants not only V2G to manage the load on the utility grid but also wants EV owners to worry less about power costs (utility bills). The company says if V2G tech is implemented those EV owners who happen to charge their EVs’ at “off-peak” time will gain from “selling their power back” to the grid at “peak” time. This will make EVs affordable to maintain and therefore will further encourage the use of EVs.

Utility companies like E.ON (Germany) and Enel (Italy) are piloting V2G with Nissan, including tracking of peak and off-peak load times of their grids with specialised software.

Challenges in implementing V2G

There are different companies belonging to different regions of the world which are manufacturing or at least piloting EVs. Just like there are international standards governing standardization of goods and services (e.g. ISO standards) EV sector also requires standardization of many protocols. Unfortunately, there is no universal standard at the moment.

There are two different methods that exist in EV industry, which govern EV charging mechanism.

  • The Japanese standard is named as CHAdeMO. This standard supports V2G tech.
  • The European standard, developed under a joint venture company named IONITY (members: Volkswagen, Daimler, BMW and Ford) is named as Combined Charging System (CCS).

The European companies are advocates of “rapid charging for long distance journeys”. CCS, the European standard, does not support the communication protocol between CCS chargers and EV batteries which can allow two-way information flows to charge and discharge electricity.

In spite of the challenges, Nuvve (a V2G tech firm headquartered in the USA with offices in the UK and Europe) has embarked on an ambitious project. It has partnered with EDF (French electric utility) to install 4,000 V2G (commercial-scale) charging stations in Britain and France. At the moment it will serve only CHAdeMO standard EVs (Nissan and Mitsubishi).

Battle of standards

There are two factors because of which EV makers have not reached a consensus to adopt V2G as the universal charging standard.

  • The European car manufacturers have spent too much time and money on CCS and therefore are not willing to make a shift although European utility companies are tilted towards V2G.
  • V2G tech means frequent charging and discharging of batteries. This shortens the life of batteries. The most expensive component of any EV is its battery.
  • Electric vehicles: future

    There’s no denying that EVs are the future of automobiles. However, the next decade will be a challenging one for EVs as the governments, environmental ministries and utility companies will try to work out how to optimally manage power and energy resources. The environment will only benefit from EVs if the net impact is a reduction in using “not-clean” sources to generate power and energy.

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