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Only smart grids have the answer

With fossil fuels becoming scarce and emerging economies adding to demand, the energy industry is facing unprecedented upheavals, as witnessed by the rise of renewable energies and the need for energy efficiency; the challenges are enormous. Electric vehicles (EVs) are part of the equation. Widespread use will put added stress on a grid that was … Continued

With fossil fuels becoming scarce and emerging economies adding to demand, the energy industry is facing unprecedented upheavals, as witnessed by the rise of renewable energies and the need for energy efficiency; the challenges are enormous.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are part of the equation. Widespread use will put added stress on a grid that was not designed to handle EVs. To minimise the impact and integrate EVs as a permanent feature, new capabilities will be required to turn the grid into a smart grid.

The power drawn from a single socket during an EV charge is equivalent to that of an entire house or apartment at maximum load. In France, electricity consumption records are frequently broken and public alerts advise consumers to cut back on their electricity use.

To minimise the impact and integrate EVs as a permanent feature, new capabilities will be required to turn the grid into a smart grid.

A recent study predicted the UK’s spend on EVs is set to increase to £7bn (US$11.4bn) by 2014. This is a very tough target; however, with the recent and ongoing hikes in fuel price, EVs offer consumers a chance to reduce running costs, as well as a real opportunity to lower carbon emissions. So the question is, will there be enough electricity if everyone starts driving EVs?

The goal is to deliver a comprehensive charging solution comprising chargers and related services to optimise the charging load according to the vehicle’s needs and the power available in the grid. What’s more, the chargers can inform users of their availability and charging status, and even alert the vehicle’s owner when the charging process is complete. The chargers will eventually be able to identify and select the renewable energy sources available in the grid on the basis of the vehicle-to-grid (V2G) concept. In V2G systems, cars can provide an additional energy source, injecting electricity into the grid during consumption peaks or emergencies caused by storms, broken cables or other unexpected events. Energy stored in an EV battery could also be used to supply residential needs.

The power drawn from a single socket during an EV charge is equivalent to that of an entire house or apartment at maximum load.

If we look at the situation in the US, there is already a business model based around harvesting the stored power in electric vehicles. At peak times of the day, electric vehicle owners can be paid to give energy back to the grid and then benefit from cheaper rates when the energy demand is low. There is a growing number of members signed up to companies where this scheme works, with members benefiting from significant cost savings.

There are some barriers to overcome, and it’s important that vehicle manufacturers and suppliers to the electric vehicle market work together. Schneider Electric has long recognised the importance of this technology and is using its knowledge, experience and proven track record in electrical manufacturing to develop complete charging solutions that are reliable, safe and simple to use. In addition, the company is accounting for the future development of the smart grid to ensure the technology is future-proofed.

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

David Greaves is Business Development Manager for electric vehicles at Schneider Electric

Schneider Electric is the global specialist in energy management and achieved sales of €19.6bn (US$28.35bn) in 2010 through an active commitment to help individuals and organisations ‘make the most of their energy’.

For further information about Schneider Electric:

UK: www.schneider-electric.co.uk or call 0870 608 8 608

International: www.schneider-electric.com or call +33 (0) 141 297 000

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