The adoption of electronic vehicles (EVs) is an important part of the transition to a low-carbon energy future, but the rapid adoption of EVs will lead to drastic changes in the demand for electricity, potentially leading to a voltage imbalance. and the need to strengthen the network. However, the EV itself can provide part of the solution. With vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology, batteries in electric vehicles become a storage device when parked.
In November 2020, the British Prime Minister published a ten point plan for a “green industrial revolution”, which includes a ban on the sale of gasoline and diesel cars by 2030. This is in line with the objective of the UK to achieve Net Zero Greenhouse Gas. (GHG) by 2050, as foreseen in the Climate Change Act of 2008. Electronic vehicles (EVs) will be an important part of the transition to a low-carbon energy future, with expected sales of EVs in the world to reach up to 58% of all vehicle sales by 2040. In the UK, a 2018 forecast from National Grid indicates that there will be 36 million electric vehicles on the roads by 2040.
The switch to electric vehicles is welcome. However, the rapid growth and expansion of electric vehicles can bring their own problems. While faster adoption of electric vehicles will help slow climate change by limiting vehicle emissions, the rapid adoption of electric vehicles will lead to drastic changes in demand for electricity, potentially resulting in voltage imbalance and the need to strengthen the network. In addition, the renewable sources often powering electric vehicles, such as wind and solar power, are intermittent in nature and are not always available “on demand”. To ensure constant availability of electricity, either “dirty” production (eg from natural gas), or extended batteries or other storage facilities are needed.
Electric vehicles as portable energy storage
However, the EV itself can provide part of the solution. Vehicle use is highest in the peak travel hours segments, with cars unused in parking lots or garages for most of the day. Remarkably, over 90% of cars are parked at some point. With vehicle-to-grid technology (V2G), batteries in electric vehicles become a potential storage device when parked. The energy stored in a charged EV battery can be used to balance the grid, storing energy when there is a surplus and selling energy back to the grid when there is a greater demand. A white paper published by Nissan, Imperial College London and E.ON estimates that successful V2G technology can save up to £ 885million per year.
To achieve this, artificial intelligence and machine learning are essential. Reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms can be used to study the needs and characteristics of each electric vehicle, providing a routing service to maximize energy savings during a given trip and gathering data. averages on the energy used during a given period. This will provide the information needed by the EV owner to understand how much energy, on average, he can store and possibly resell in the grid, without affecting his daily needs.
Externally, AI can analyze broader market trends and use this data to predict future market loads and plan load cycles to minimize possible spikes, enabling the integration of EVs into the grid. It can also use price signal algorithms to avoid charging at peak times or at certain locations, creating dynamic charging rate at all times based on available data and demand. Electric vehicle owners could access the change in price signals through a real-time app, allowing EV owners to safely sell or buy electricity in a decentralized manner through their smartphones, potentially using smart phones. blockchain-enabled wallets, where transactions could be automated through smart contracts. . Not only will individual consumers be able to enjoy their own electric vehicles, but they will also be able to contribute to the country’s renewable energy capacity and capacity.
This will help integrate renewables into the grid, ultimately reducing the need for high-consuming power plants, especially backup stations that sell dirtier energy to suppliers due to lack of supply, while limiting the need for energy. negative impact of EVs on electrical capacity. This is because the electric vehicle fleet can become a “virtual power station”, discharging the accumulated energy accumulated in the network when it is not needed to drive.
Dominion Energy in Virginia, USA, put the principle into practice, using electric school buses that are recharged into the grid after school runs, serving as storage and making room for further integration of renewables. . Although still at the experimental stage, it should make it possible to store and supply electricity to more than 15,000 homes. Closer to home in the UK, Octopus Energy is testing the UK’s first V2G system, stating that a smart energy system could save up to £ 40 billion by 2050.
Using technology to create microgrids
Another problem with the widespread adoption of electric vehicles is the pressure exerted by the additional demand for electricity on existing national grids. Installing the infrastructure needed to charge a country’s electric vehicle fleet will be very expensive and will likely lead to bottlenecks in transmission and distribution networks. Smart technology, enabling usage patterns to be established via data collected from the Internet of Things, could enable electricity produced from rooftop solar panels and stored in electric vehicle batteries to d ” be sold to other local “prosumers”, thus meeting the local demand for recharging electric vehicles. [This will be examined further in a separate article in this series]
What is there for investors?
With the push to adopt electric vehicles, especially in Europe, there are many opportunities for investors, including the design, planning, construction, operation and maintenance of electric vehicle infrastructure. This extends to the production of the electric vehicles themselves, charging infrastructure, battery storage technology and investments in smart meter applications, as well as the e-commerce that surrounds the technology.
In the UK, the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) are considering including infrastructure requirements for electric vehicles in England in residential and non-residential buildings, as well as ‘a Road to Zero strategy that will guarantee extended charging points all over England. This emphasizes the opportunity for those working in the infrastructure sector. The success of V2G and two-way charging will also increase the demand for charging infrastructure. The use of EVs as storage will increase the capacity and demand for renewable energy, thus opening up new investment opportunities, or partnership possibilities, for players in the wind or solar sectors.
Legal and practical obstacles
It will not be easy, however. As noted above, the increasing adoption of electric vehicles will put pressure on the capacity of existing electricity grids. The same applies to technical and cloud infrastructures to support the IT functionalities necessary for the efficient operation of the system. Any blockchain infrastructure must also be flexible to the dynamism of the electricity grid, the production of new renewable sources and the quantities of electric vehicles on the road, in the short term.
Cyber security presents a risk to be managed – recently $ 31 million was stolen from Ethereum cryptocurrency due to loopholes in the code. Smart contracts and blockchain-based programs are currently in their infancy and the legal issues they pose are still being identified. The technology behind V2G and smart grid integration requires the collection of personal data on location, preferences, distances traveled and, along with GDPR restrictions on how personal data can be used, there are issues. of broader confidentiality.
Licensing regimes around the supply of electricity to electric vehicles as well as the implications of consumers selling their energy also need to be addressed. In the UK it is a criminal offense to supply electricity without an applicable license or exemption under Section 4 of the Electricity Act 1989. Although Ofgem has confirmed that the supply of electricity to an EV is not a “supply of premises” under the Electricity Act 1989 s4 (1) (c) and 64 (1), Ofgem stated that the supply of electricity to a charging point is a “food”. This could create a licensing requirement for EV owners wishing to resell excess power into the grid, complicating the V2G process and making it more expensive. Greater clarity from Ofgem may therefore be needed to understand the implications of V2G for consumers, and legislative / regulatory change may be required.
On a practical level, there are risks associated with the interoperability of several functionalities, such as the network, the e-commerce network, the charging points and the electric vehicles themselves. Some market leaders are trying to establish market standards in the hope of facilitating the interoperability of data transmission, such as OCPP (Open Charge Point Protocol). However, further developments may be needed to fill in the gaps within the industry at large. As similar projects are developed and accepted over time, V2G technology may be more widely available. Additionally, the V2G system has been correlated with battery degradation. At the current price of EV batteries, EV owners will not benefit financially from the V2G method. Therefore, until battery prices drop, the implementation of V2G is more likely to be an ancillary service.
Electric vehicles and technology could decentralize and revolutionize the way we store and access our energy, enabling widespread adoption of electric vehicles. However, as with all innovations, new practical and legal risks will need to be identified and mitigated to turn the possible into reality.