The rapid rise in the use of electric vehicles (EVs) across the globe is well and truly underway and businesses need to start planning now to ensure they are positioned to meet the associated challenges and capture the benefits of this energy transition.
The International Energy Agency has forecast that the number of electric vehicles in use across the world will rise to about 125 million by 2030.
This increased adoption of EVs will impact any business that has an employee or customer car park, consequently organizations need to consider the impact of EV charging and future EV trends on their energy strategy. This is particularly the case for businesses who may need to install multiple charging or rapid charging infrastructure at their premises.
Many businesses will be unaware that installing significant numbers of EV charging points is likely to have implications for their existing electricity supply, which may need upgrading to cope with the increased demand.
Electricity supply capacity upgrades are not necessarily a paperwork exercise, with many requiring physical re-enforcing of supply cables and transformers, back to a point in the network that the increased capacity is available. This is often an expensive, time consuming process and applications for increased capacity are treated on a first come, first served basis.
Whilst many businesses could easily absorb one or two 3kW slow EV charging points into their existing infrastructure, 10 or more slow chargers could pose a problem. Furthermore, as manufacturers strive to reduce charging times to make the ‘re-fuelling’ more akin to a conventional car, the power required to achieve this is rising, with the latest fast chargers requiring 300kW.
Kinect Energy is currently working with one customer, that requires the installation of two ‘fast’ EV chargers along with a number of slower ones and will require a capacity upgrade over 30 times that of their existing electricity supply. Whilst this is an extreme example, it serves to highlight the challenge some will face.
Given that EVs are not yet that prevalent on our roads, it is difficult for some businesses to foresee the transition that is on the horizon and plan accordingly. However, for those that do there will be competitive advantage to be gained.
The benefits of offering customers the ability to charge whilst they shop, eat, visit the gym, or stay in your hotel, when your competitors do not, are self-evident. Whilst any benefit derived from offering employees the ability to charge at work may be less clear, the development of smart charging infrastructure will allow energy costs to be passed on, with or without a margin applied.
Furthermore, an additional revenue stream could be generated by allowing night time public charging for those without the ability to charge at home. Rapid development in smart charging will inevitably see a bi-directional power flow between an EV and the grid; known as Vehicle to Grid or V2G, the ability to export from an EV’s battery to periodically support the grid in return for financial reward may also benefit those who own multiple charging infrastructure.
As EVs become mainstream, the collective capacity of their batteries and ability to store electricity will be huge. Such storage will become an increasingly important resource as more and more electricity is generated from renewables sources with a variable output – storage can absorb power when generation exceeds demand (charge) and export power when demand exceeds generation (discharge) via V2G. Even using only a small fraction of each EV’s battery will afford an enormous storage pool, the use of which will be financially compensated, either to the EV owner or owner of the charging infrastructure and electricity supply.
Whilst there are many standards yet to be defined and telemetry to be deployed to support smart charging, the future of transport is electric. Whilst government policy has defined timelines for this to happen, the wholesale shift will occur well before 2040 as EV costs fall and range improves. Those businesses that understand this will have implications for them and acting now to plan for this shift will be far better placed than competitors who don’t and ultimately get left behind.
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