September 29, 2009
Regarding ‘Can the EU pave the way for electric cars?‘:
Over the past two years, PWR has looked at the issue of electric vehicle (EV) development, specifically with respect to infrastructure. This week, we have been talking to distribution engineers in the UK (in fact some of my ex-colleagues).
EVs are often linked to ‘smart grids’ in the context of the one needing the other. It came as no great surprise to hear Mr Egenfeldt of ‘Better Place’ stressing that charging vehicles in an intelligent way is crucial to ensuring that the electricity infrastructure is not overburdened when electric cars are commonplace.
The above phrase is repeated in various ways and thus one gains the impression of both unanimity and need. Sadly a discordant and dissenting note is raised by a report produced for the UK Ministry BERR and covering the impact of EVs on electricty distribution networks.
One of the report’s scenarios for 2030 (the extreme one) assumes more than 50% of the UK car fleet would be EV or PHEV. This would raise UK electrical power demand to re-charge batteries by 7%. The report believes that this could be easily absorbed by the network in 2030. It also noted that existing distribution networks would be able to support even an extreme scenario, provided re-charging was done off-peak and in a staggered way. It also notes (page 43) that EVs would carry their own chargers (reflecting discussions at EPOSS attended by PWR).
Charging EVs in a way that does not cause problems on distribution networks can be accomplished in a number of ways (simple timers and a random number generator spring to mind). I am sure Better Place has developed a wonderful system to address the issue of staggered charging. However, one is forced to ask how much of the engineering in such systems is aimed at customer lock-in as opposed to simply staggered charging. In turn, will we end up replacing ICE vehicles and a dependency on fossil fuels, with EVs and an energy storage system/charging system that is controlled by a small group (or perhaps even one) company.
And the pork barrel? Watch as the usual suspects’ hands are extended for money for gold-plated solutions to the above (fairly simple) charging “problems”.
Mike ParrLetters to the EurActiv editor