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The Rise of EV’s – A Curse or a Blessing?

Every week there is yet again a new big natural disaster or influence of climate change hitting us. The voices are swelling towards taking faster and more tangible actions towards a decarbonized energy system to hopefully not get to an un-changeable and very costly tipping point in our global ecosystem.
Green energy production “plants” are increasing and the way the underlying economics of the energy system works this is pushing out more and more stable base-loads like gas and nuclear which in turn increases the volatility of the system. System failures and lack of power at some points in time where not known in the Western world already quite a long time but are now coming back.
On the consumption side EVs are at a rise too and predictions are adjusted every quarter to higher percentages of total car sales and each time earlier in time and with more OEMs providing more models. Soon we will hit the point that EVs are from a total cost of ownership better than their competitive “fuel brothers”, but the true inflection point will come when the purchase price parity is hit on the common car-model types. At that time also the range anxiety will have been taken away with most people due to higher electrical battery capacities, more abundant available (semi and fast) charging points and in general good feedback from the earlier adopters.
However with the increasing grid/power problems the general public also starts thinking that EV’s are a bad evolution because “we already have electrical energy problems now”. It is fundamentally important that these voices are informed well about the reality and the positive effects EV can have and thus don’t hamper growth of EV due to half information/knowledge.
To start off, the current EV penetration is so small that the energy usage is marginal in comparison with an overall country’s usage. Looking at the mid-term (2030) would give lead to an overall modest % of EVs (100+ Millions worldwide) which would still only on average consume 4- 6% of the overall electrical production which again is a marginal step-up of what we have now. So far seemingly no issue but here looms the real danger … electrical grids need to be in balance and a key balance period on EU level is 15min in which supply and demand need to be in equilibrium. One can easily imagine that if worst case all EVs would charge at the same time there can be a significant increase in energy need on 15 minute level. This relates to typical human/societal group behavior and e.g. the current approximate 1million + EVs can realistically give lead to 1,2GW of instantaneous power need. This equates to about 3-4 gas fired power plants or nearly 2 nuclear power plants.
As an analogy a country like Belgium on average would need about 8-10GW of power and thus if all these EVs would be concentrated on that single country one can easily see that this causes a significant problem. Coming back on the 2030 targets, the 100 million+ EVs would pose an average 10% extra power requirement which is also not insignificant anymore, but overall there are no real national level issues to be expected the next 10+ years with the EV introduction. The real shorter-term issues will (and are already) arise within concentrated EV deployments (e.g. a group of 100 houses with 5-10 EVs can worst case already impact the power peeks up to 20% which is the danger-zone of typical dimensioned normal low-voltage network). Here smart EV charging technology can become a blessing to spread out the charging process over a longer period such hence again no issues are expected because the increased energy demand is relatively low.
Another value is that these EV-drivers typically work for employers which are becoming increasingly aware of the need for sustainability and also have solar panels on their business’ roof which with smart charging technology again can be absorbed nearly fully avoiding peek-injection of the solar panels and lowering the charging costs by means of a lower cost of own produced green energy versus net-energy.
Finally imagine that all the above mentioned 1M+ EVs in EU would be bi-directional and thus would be able to also provide the network of energy when there are high periods of need of energy during short periods of time. This situation does realistically occur (recall more volatility on the green production side) and at that point in time the EVs could avoid the need to use 3-4 gas-fired power-plants which more and more are still kept alive for these short imbalance periods. This would save 100’s of millions of euros only of these type of power plants using latent available EV batteries.
This seems far off, but currently in small scale it is already running in projects fully automatically proving the viability of advanced AI technology to perform this type of charging without discomforting the EV driver who needs to get to his next location.
To summarize, EVs are not at all a curse for the electrical grid, but rather a blessing when combined with advanced smart EV charging algorithms. The result will be a more stable, greener and cost-effective energy grid which is what we are striving for, so let’s all embrace and positively stimulate the EV growth to help save our planet and make a better world for our children.
About the Author
Stefan Lodeweyckx, Founder & CEO of Enervalis is an internationally experienced and an all-encompassing manager in the technology sector with hands-on and managerial knowledge ranging from start-ups, business development, engineering, operations, change to customer service and product/project/people management/planning.
His professional experience is endorsed by a solid educational blend of engineering and business degrees (MSc/MBA). Apart from being the Co-founder of Ego-LogiQ, which focuses on the mental aspect of individuals to increase their personal and professional performance, Stefan’s Enervalis is a high tech start-up company which provides smart grid software, service and solutions. He is also the Managing Director at Ubisin, a consultancy firm in the high-tech sector on various domains such as business development, project and product management, strategy, and overall management.