It is now possible to walk into a car showroom and buy, or lease, a practical mass market electric vehicle made by a major automotive manufacturer.
However, while acquiring an electric vehicle is becoming easier, keeping it charged up and running may still present a challenge to many owners.
It is estimated that every electric vehicle that comes on to the roads will require 1.5 chargers. In the EU alone it is expected that there will be about 3.3 million electric vehicles on the road by 2020, with sales increasing rapidly after that to more than 50 million electric vehicles in use by 2030.
This demand represents a major challenge to utilities, energy companies and municipalities and other organisations that consumers expect to provide the infrastructure necessary to keep their vehicles on the road.
In the EU alone it is expected that there will be about 3.3 million electric vehicles on the road by 2020, with sales increasing rapidly after that to more than 50 million electric vehicles in use by 2030.
In order to see widespread adoption of electric vehicles, the power grid must be modernised to accommodate the changing patterns of demand, and charging stations must be accessible, quick and easy.
There will be the need to ensure that local networks are strong enough to handle the higher voltages that will be utilised to speed the vehicle charging and, critically, that the right level of protection is in place to ensure public safety.
Vehicle chargers cannot be simply plugged into the electricity supply like domestic appliances. Building an electric vehicle charging infrastructure will require a significant re-engineering of the grid to manage the changing patterns of energy consumption.
A major concern is the impact of a large number of people starting to charge vehicles in the early evening after returning from work, already a period of peak demand. So it will be necessary for chargers to become more intelligent, to be able to integrate with building management systems and to have the software and communications capability to work with smart grid systems, off-peak tariffs and metering options. It is expected that by 2020, all electric vehicle chargers will incorporate smart technology to avoid grid overload problems.
They will also need to be upgradable to accommodate future technologies.
It is expected that by 2020 all electric vehicle chargers will incorporate smart technology to avoid grid overload problems.
GE Energy recently announced WattStation, perhaps the most visible addition to our growing family of charging stations. While we hope that its design and smart functionality will encourage the public adoption of electric vehicles, it also represents the final link in the chain that begins with the generation of electricity from renewable sources and new generation flexible and efficient power stations that are able to respond rapidly to changing patterns of demand.
The re-engineering of the grid will require the cooperation of many different stakeholders, including utility companies, the owners and managers of car parks and commercial buildings, urban planners and home owners. The technology, the compatibility and the knowledge necessary to do this is now available. All that is required is the will and the investment to make it happen.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.
Todd Johnstone is chief executive of GE Energy Industrial Solutions, Europe, Middle East and Africa
GE Energy provides integrated product and service solutions in all areas of the energy industry including coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear energy; renewable resources such as water, wind, solar and biogas; as well as other alternative fuels and new grid modernization technologies.
Industrial Solutions, a division of GE Energy, provides wide range of electricity generation distribution, and protection solutions, including controls used to safely distribute and manage power in residential, commercial and industrial settings. Industrial Solutions has the capability to capability build and service entire electric vehicle eco-systems, including a range of fast vehicle chargers, systems, smart control technology and the necessary infrastructure to safely distribute power necessary for charging.
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