The electric vehicle (EV) movement has passed the point of no return.
Automakers are rushing new EV models to market and in many cases, they are committing most or all their R&D to EVs and battery technology. Policy makers are pushing hard with both incentives and regulations. Investment is flowing into charging infrastructure, made more attractive by new standards assuring interoperability. Enterprises and public transportation operators are electrifying their fleets. And, perhaps most importantly, people want it.
It is now safe to say that the EV future is just around the bend. But how do we make the most of it?
In getting there, an opportunity emerges. Industry can redefine EVs as more than a means of transportation powered by electricity to replace gas guzzling internal combustion engines. Beyond roaming the streets and highways with zero emissions, these mobile batteries have a yet untapped potential to further reduce carbon emissions from power generation, perhaps by as much as 50%.
The most impactful advances for climate change can come from using EV batteries as storage resources that can be used to balance peak demands on generating capacity and solving the availability issues of renewables
While everyone recognises the potential for EVs to create a cleaner climate, when compared to their ICE counterparts, it is critical to leverage their benefits in the broader context of what EVs could mean for ‘climate recharge’. The most impactful advances for climate change can come from using EV batteries as storage resources that can be used to balance peak demands on generating capacity and solving the availability issues of renewables.
First, let’s unpack the problems. Visualising peak demands on electricity generation is easy. Picture rolling brownouts on hot summer afternoons in America’s south and west. With everyone at work and air conditioners cranking to keep people comfortable, the demand for electricity exceeds capacity. Setting aside the extremes of brownouts, electricity in these peak periods is more expensive.
As to renewables, they hold the promise of breaking the current dependency on coal-fired generation to power the future and reduce carbon emissions. But you must only look outside to see the problem. If the sun is shining or the wind is blowing, renewable energy is plentiful and cheap. But if not? How can we adjust energy supply to demand?
A world full of EV batteries changes everything. The question for both balancing generation and expanding the use of renewables is how we store that energy for later use. EV batteries, combined with smart energy management, are the answer. Here’s how that works, and we all play a role. The magic starts with the fundamental shift in when and where fuelling takes place. Instead of gas stations, most EV charging happens at home and work.
That fact is so blindingly obvious it hides the profound impact EVs can have on climate recharge. Green-minded EV owners can re-charge and store electricity in their large-capacity batteries at the right times when electricity is climate friendly and cheaper. Whether at home at night when demand is low, or when the winds are blowing, or the sun is shining, it is a win-win. Then they can give back excess energy when it is most needed and expensive, lowering peak generation demands, as well as CO2 emissions.
And green in this context is not only eco-altruism. They can profit on storing electricity for the grid: buying low and selling back high at a premium.
There is plenty of room to do this while still taking drivers’ needs into account. The average American drives 29 miles a day, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation. Even if you assume a four-fold safety margin and an average 250 mile range EV battery, that still leaves more than 50% capacity available for climate recharge. This sounds good for solving the storage issues with grid balancing and renewables, but how is this energy optimisation managed?
Enter smart energy management, a holistic system that integrates EVs, power grids and everything in between to automatically adjust electricity delivery to or from EVs. Based on algorithms that make note of dynamic grid and renewable supplies, pricing and the driving needs of vehicle owners, energy management offloads stress from the grid during peak charging periods and preserves energy from renewables for later use, reducing costs and increasing the efficiency of energy usage.
The implications here are immense—EVs are no longer only a means of transportation, they may generate revenue and become agents of climate recharge. With managed charging, they can be grid assets. Vehicles could power buildings, microgrids or even feed energy back into communal power systems, effectively creating a flexible energy market that will not only meet—but exceed—the demands of EVs, and ultimately fuel climate recharge.
Now, EV charging demand is shifted away from peak periods, circumnavigating critical stress on the grid and making charging cheaper for consumers. In addition to receiving lower rates, networks can earn payment incentives or even sell energy back to the grid. Smart EV charging management enables this complex interaction between planning and automation required to bring flexible energy markets to fruition.
These solutions are not only effective, but essential. McKinsey research believes that unmanaged, substation peak-load increases from EV charging power demand will eventually push local transformers beyond their capacity, requiring expensive infrastructure upgrades in the long term. At present, industries are not taking advantage of the opportunity presented to the— leveraging smart charging technology as an agent of change—instead ignoring the bigger picture in favour of siloed thinking.
Yes, the climate recharge initiative has begun, but only by recognising the benefits of EVs as mobile batteries can we bring the complete picture of possibilities to fruition. We can start with collaboration and education.
About the author: Doron Frenkel, founder and Chief Executive of Driivz, is an experienced entrepreneur with a strong track record of excellence and executive leadership in international IT, telecom and electric vehicles organisations