The UK has announced plans to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, raising the question of charging infrastructure required to support the transition to electric vehicles (EVs).

 

The European EV market is gaining momentum, with the UK the latest to announce measures to encourage the uptake of electric cars.

As more lithium ion batteries are made, the better the industry gets at making them, driving down costs. But that means buying a lot of electric cars in future.

Costs and range, two of the three main barriers to EVs are being overcome. Due to the falling cost of lithium-ion batteries, makes of all-electric cars are coming to market that suit most budgets. The latest models can also go further on a single charge. This leaves the question of charging infrastructure.

Cars spend the majority of their time parked. The average daily car journey is less than 20 miles in the UK. Chargers at homes and at places of work, where cars tend to be stationary most of the time will handle a lot of the charging.

But to support EV adoption over the next two decades, charging infrastructure coverage needs to be extensive, and also needs to deploy smart charging technology to ensure utilities can manage the distribution network, to ensure all charging does not clash with peak electricity demand, which tends to be in the evening from about 18:00 when people get home from work.

Automakers, specialist players, and energy suppliers are among some of the companies that are bringing to market different charging platforms and models.

EV opportunity shakes up energy supply industry

OVO Energy is one of several newer energy suppliers to emerge to compete with the ‘Big Six’ energy companies, which include Centrica and Eon, by dedicating its business to optimising renewables in the supply of its electricity.

The company has partnered with Chargemaster, which suppliers EV charging equipment for residential and commercial premises, and also runs Polar, the largest EV charging network in the UK. Through the partnership Chargemaster can guarantee 100% renewable electricity supply for its Polar network.

OVO is also investing in EV technology, by commercialising its own software platform that can take distributed storage resources, which span solar-plus-storage systems, thermal heating and ice-based air-conditioning, and aggregate these various units to operate as a virtual power plant.

EVs that are able to not only recharge, but also inject electricity back into the grid, known as vehicle to grid (V2G) technology, can also be integrated with the platform. Recently OVO announced a partnership with Nissan the largest supplier of EVs, to bring to market a V2G service.

Fast-charging rollout

ard to miss: Fastned’s bright yellow fast-charging stations for electric cars will be appearing somewhere near London, soon.

Earlier this year, government authority Transport for London signed a framework agreement with Dutch company Fastned to establish rapid or fast-charging stations in greater London.

The agreement is part of the transport authority’s goal of rolling out 300 fast-charging points before 2020. In the next three years, Transport for London will issue locations throughout London.

To ensure the quality of the charging network, the authority has run a public tender and will issue long-term land leases to concessionaires who will build and operate the charging locations, similar to the model for petrol stations. The first allocations will be awarded before the end of 2017.

Fastned has already built 61 stations in the Netherlands, mostly on motorways, with its first city stations being built in the Hague. Fastned has been awarded a total of 200 concessions in the Netherlands.

Fastned’s stations, covered in a yellow canopy made with glass integrated with solar panels, comprise two to eight fast chargers. In the Netherlands, to use the stations, drivers have to sign up via an app, which they use to charge and pay. WiFi is available at all the stations.

One of the challenges for the company was designing, writing and configuring the back office software and launching the app, which Fastned decided was the easiest way to sign up customers and provide them with the most convenient way to pay.

By pulling together the entire supply chain to deliver its fast-charging stations, Fastned is now able to build a station a week. More chargers can be added at each station, as EV uptake grows. Identifying the right locations is key to the company’s offering, whose co-founder used to work at Epyon, a Dutch start-up developing fast-charging technology, which was acquired by ABB six years ago. Higher power chargers can also be added later on.

Today ABB is supplying the chargers in Fastned’s stations though the deal is not exclusive.

Data on the usage of its fast-charging stations show that most charging takes place in the daytime, which complements the productivity of solar PV.

Time of use pricing, to encourage EV drivers to recharge when electricity prices are cheapest, will be one of the ways to ensure the distribution network can manage the demand from EVs, by recharging with cheap electricity during off-peak times which also tends to correspond with renewable energy generation at its most productive.

Some see EVs and renewables as mutually reinforcing. However, EV growth could also contribute to demand for energy storage.

Given today’s prices, energy storage systems need to perform several functions and services to recoup the cost. However, as power requirements of stations grow, installing a battery storage system close by could void more costly grid connections needed if higher power chargers are installed. Operators of fast-charging stations could also be paid to provide grid balancing services from their energy storage systems.