Electric Vehicles – Why the Hype?

It’s hard to ignore the mounting news and press about electric cars. With the government banning the sale of all petrol cars by 2040, and with Bloomberg New Energy Finance […]

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By Freddie Rand

It’s hard to ignore the mounting news and press about electric cars. With the government banning the sale of all petrol cars by 2040, and with Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasting electric cars to account for 1/3 of all cars by 2040, displacing 8 million barrels of oil a day, we are at a widely acknowledged turning point for our vehicles.

Exxon, BP and Statoil are all now expecting at least 100 million electric vehicles to hit the roads worldwide between 2030 and 2035. This looks conservative when compared to BNEF’s estimated 530 million cumulative electric cars to be sold by 2040. But what does this mean for the grid, energy requirements and flexibility?

There are many concerns about electric cars, including battery life, performance and sustainability, but features aside, charging provides another issue that entrants to the market and the grid are forced to take into consideration. With many vehicle journeys occurring around the same time, between 7am-9am and 4-6pm, it is expected that demand will decrease in the morning as users unplug their cars, and then spike in the evening when users start charging again.

However, the potential for electric vehicles to work in harmony with the grid to ease this changing demand is gaining momentum and causing market excitement. By using smart charging technology, electric vehicles can actually work with the grid, rather than against it, by using artificial intelligence to ensure that charging takes place overnight, rather than at the same time.

A smart charger would monitor and control multiple charging assets and optimise these for peak time use and demand response purposes – reducing overall electricity costs. Together with Shell, we’ve designed a system that looks for charging behavioural patterns and identifies best times for inclusion in demand response and frequency response programmes, and we’ve been working to understand and measure the potential value that managed smart charging will provide.

Despite this progression, according to BNEF, the world’s biggest auto manufacturers are only planning to sell a combined 8 million electric cars per year by 2030. As the technology develops to enable the grid to deal with the increase in cars, developments are as much driven by whether consumer demand will hit those peaks in the short term. Whatever the outcome, with the ability to stagger charging times, the potential for electric vehicles to help the grid with its demand requirements is an incredibly exciting space – and worthy of the hype.

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