Charging infrastructure will pave the way for eMobility

What action must be taken to ensure the sentiment and momentum around eMobility remains fully charged? By Adrien Schwane and Mona Berghaus

The production of electric vehicles (EVs) can be traced as far back as the 1880s, with the father of inventions himself, Thomas Edison, behind the wheel of his very own EV—the Edison Baker. Rechargeable batteries were even around in the 1890s but were soon swapped out for exchangeable ones. The reason: not enough infrastructure for recharging.

Fast forward to today and while both the demand and need for electric transport is greater than ever before, the obstacles sound frustratingly familiar. eMobility has the potential to become Europe’s sustainable ride towards a greener future, but challenges remain around charging infrastructure, grid capability and regulatory frameworks—all of which are hampering the widespread deployment of eMobility solutions.

Greater use of renewable energy is pivotal to make EVs a true low-carbon solution

As we move further into another pivotal year in the fight to be more sustainable, what action must be taken to ensure the sentiment and momentum around eMobility remains fully charged and can finally enter the fast laney?

Speeding up the charge

The Paris Agreement has put even more pressure on eMobility, as decarbonising transport is key to keeping the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The solution is not only selling more EVs but also improving the charging infrastructure. Anxieties around owning an EV persist for many consumers; research from Which? Found that a lack of charging points is the main concern for 39% of people in the UK. For eMobility to be a success, EV owners must feel they can conveniently and efficiently charge their car whether they’re at home, work, in a public space, or any number of other locations.

There are efforts underway to ease this charging anxiety, with the revised Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation requiring member states in Europe to expand charging capacity in line with EV car sales, installing charging points every 60km.

Yet more must be done to accelerate eMobility. For many, inconvenience has always endangered innovation, and the lack of a robust infrastructure risks years of progress. This is therefore where multiple stakeholders, both in and outside the transport sector, must concentrate their focus to keep eMobility in the fast lane. Like Wi-Fi nowadays, charging points should not only be available at home, but also at the local supermarket, the bar in the city centre and recreational locations—a development that enables opportunity charging.

How smart charging can enable the extra mile

EV charging undoubtedly puts strain on grid capability, and there is a need to capitalise further on smart charging—that is, charging EVs when demand for electricity is lower or when there is a great amount of renewable energy available on the grid. Charging during these off-peak times not only reduces costs for EV drivers by taking advantage of cheaper energy rates, but also helps to prevent unwanted intervals of high demand. Charging at night-time for instance would more than halve the contribution of EVs to peak demand.

Public infrastructure also has a greater role to play. If individual EV owners have their own spaces to hook their vehicles up to the electricity network, then things remain fairly straightforward. But for those who lack these facilities, an ecosystem of cost-effective and convenient public charging infrastructure is needed, underpinned by great design and detailed planning —all integrated with wider urban mobility and aligned with grid capability.

The aim is to install charging points every 60km

Architects and developers must seek to expand the installation of solar panels on all new homes which, along with EV charge points, could pave the way for more individuals to become a part of the prosumer energy revolution—offering the chance to generate their own electricity and sell any excess back to the grid.

Aside from creating the infrastructure and ensuring there is sufficient grid capacity, a third consideration can help eMobility make the maximum contribution to cutting carbon emissions—and that’s the choice of fuel source.

Renewables in the driving seat and EVs as storage units

While eMobility represents unquestionable progress for the transport sector, if the electricity in question is derived from fossil fuels, then it remains an imperfect solution; one in which consumers embarking on this green revolution are unintentionally having a detrimental impact on the planet. What can practically and cost-effectively meet this demand though is renewables.

Renewables represent the logical next step eMobility must take

Cars, including EVs, typically spend 23 hours out of every day parked, and while this might seem wasteful, these idle periods can make full use of the innovations in battery storage capacity that have placated much of the range anxiety around EVs in recent years. Each EV could effectively become an energy storage unit with assets such as rooftop solar panels. By linking a large number of cars into a giant virtual battery, grid services can also be provided that unburden the power grid and make EVs a money-maker. This not only reduces the strain EVs put on individual countries’ electricity grids, but also helps consumers rest easy during a period of high energy prices and uncertain supply chains.

Renewables represent the logical next step eMobility must take, offering an ideal solution for providing the clean, green electricity that will be required to power the growth of EVs. This is particularly critical for Europe’s plans decarbonise the transport sector and reduce GHG emissions by 80-95% by 2050.

An open road for sustainable mobility

There seems to be little argument that EVs play an important role in helping Europe achieve its energy goals. To give eMobility the best chance of success, industry needs to think bigger, namely by not seeing its future as not resting purely on the shoulders of non-renewable energy. So to avoid waiting another 140 years for progress, charging infrastructure, smart charging and new storage sources should take a place in the front row. Industry cannot afford to let the eMobility movement slip back into the slow lane, especially during a decade in which sustainable progress matters more than ever.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.

Adrien Schwane is Head of eMobility at BayWa r.e. Operation Services and Mona Berghaus, isSolution Development Engineer Charging Systems at BayWa r.e. Power Solution

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