In SEPA’s latest guide on electric vehicles, they estimate that by 2030 the United States will have 20 million more electric vehicles (EVs) on its roads. This boost in numbers equates to the most significant increase in the electricity grid load since the widespread adoption of air conditioning during the 1950s. One of the possible solutions to overloading being considered is actively managed smart charging.
Factors contributing to the projected increase in EV numbers include reduced energy costs and benefits realized through carbon emission reductions. Any charging solution, of course, is expected to utilize renewable energy generation.
SEPA’s estimate is looking ten years into the future, but what about the next 12 months? What use-cases will dominate the EV environment in 2021?
At Tridens, we engage directly and daily with fleet operators, charging point providers, and utility companies. The discussions we’ve had with these people put us in an excellent position to assess the next trends. The following are, what we estimate to be, the three dominant Smart Charging use-cases for 2021.
Workplace charging refers to putting in place the facility for employees to charge their vehicles cheaply or for free while at work. This facility is considered to be an import staff-benefit, as well as contributing to the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
One company leading the way on this sort of Innovation is Audi. They have recently announced a $115 million investment to install 4.000 charging stations for employees across its plants in Germany by 2022.
Workplace charging fits in well with Smart Charging principles. Employees generally arrive at work between 7-10 a.m. and depart between 4-6 p.m. The average commuting time is around 25 minutes, so most employees’ EVs will only require around 15 kWh to charge.
Rather than having a power requirement surge early in the morning when staff arrives, Smart Charging can distribute charging events across the whole working day of 8 hours. System algorithms will have the intelligence to schedule and optimize charging events.
This type of Smart Charging also fits with government or regulatory demands to conduct EV charging during times when solar power can be maximized.
Although a few of the larger fleet operators have switched to EVs, many still have yet to announce electrification. One operator with plans for its transformation is Vattenfall. By 2022, they intend to have their 3,500 light-duty vehicle fleet electric. This speedy transformation is part of Vattenfall’s goal of being carbon neutral by 2050.
However, fleet operators face two considerable challenges in achieving their aim of electrifying their fleets:
- Which EVs to choose?
- How to charge hundreds of EVs simultaneously in one location?
One vehicle manufacturer trying to address the first challenge is Daimler. They have announced that production will soon commence on the eSprinter, at their plant in Düsseldorf, Germany.
Overcoming the issue of how to charge hundreds of EVs in a single location simultaneously is less advanced. The industry is still assessing what the correct charging infrastructure will look like.
The primary issue is that energy providers, in general, placed limitations on the amount of electricity that flows into a depot. The original grid design did not consider the need to charge hundreds of EVs simultaneously – there were none around at the time. So, most fleet operators will require additional electricity to power around 50 charging stations.
There are two options for fleet operators:
- Upscale the power capacity and infrastructure of their depots. This upscale would involve considerable capital investment running into the tens of millions of dollars potentially.
- Invest in Smart Charging technologies. This option is low-cost as it optimizes charging around vehicle schedules, work patterns, and routes.
Given the capital requirements of upscaling a depot’s power capacity, Smart Charging is the only realistic solution for most companies. Moreover, Smart Charging is a more environmentally-friendly solution and can be implemented without significant disruption to operations.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has considered the benefits of Smart Charging. Charging during periods of low demand, such as at night, is one way to reduce the stress on the grid that ultra-fast charging causes. IRENA also recommended that operators create energy storage units that can store surplus renewable electricity.
More concepts are likely to emerge throughout 2022 as these issues are tackled further. Ultimately, it will be the potential for substantial cost savings that will drive innovative solutions.
The prolonged planning stage involved in developing vehicle charging infrastructure provides a significant challenge for real estate companies. The process can delay construction for several years because of the number of planning phases involved and the number of permits needed. Before construction can commence, a contract agreement needs to be reached between the various stakeholders, taking a considerable amount of time.
All of this often makes it too difficult for construction firms to implement, and new buildings get constructed without charging facilities. Alternatively, facilities are added at the last moment, not planned correctly, and without a permit for additional power capacity.
Another challenge is retrofitting older buildings in large cities. Doing such fits can involve extensive construction work and considerable cost for building owners.
However, residential charging is similar to workplace charging in that it has a considerable degree of flexibility. For example, charging events tend to commence between 5-9p.m., and vehicles remain connected at the charging point throughout the night. So there are around eleven hours in which to schedule a charging event.
With around 50% of millennials having aspirations of owning an EV, residential real estate companies and developers need to start factoring sufficient charging stations into their building designs. Smart Charging facilities prove to be an attraction for new tenants, and this demand will help drive change.
Will 2021 Be The Year We Adopt Smart Charging?
Over the forthcoming year, it will be exciting to see how Smart Charging gets adopted and by which markets. At Tridens, we expect all three of the use-cases we’ve covered in this article to be relevant.
Much of the momentum will be provided by several of the motor industry’s larger players. Volkswagen has committed $50 billion, with Ford, GM, and Renault all starting to restructure their business around EVs. We anticipate that the growth in new vehicle models will increase the need for Smart Charging, with the two growing hand-in-hand in the future.