Flexibility a case for EV driver market government and science

“Flexibility is more than a magic word,” says Aart-Jan de Graaf, professor of Control Systems Engineering at HAN University of Applied Science. Our daily lives are becoming increasingly electric: our household and our ways of transportation. “If in the nearby future we want users to have enough power at any time they need power, we have to act now,” warns De Graaf. Grid operators, municipalities, the government, industry and users each play their own role in the interaction between power grid and charging infrastructure. Flexibility is required from all parties involved.

The government stimulates electric driving, but what happens when more and more drivers choose to drive an electric vehicle (EV)? At the moment grid managers can still meet the demand for power in residential areas. If one or two EVs are charging at the same time in a street, this will not cause any problems. But all of this will be different if more than twenty EVs need to be charged. “Grid operators can’t cope with that,” says De Graaf. “In the inner cities it’s already a bit tricky to meet demands.”

EV driver: you can charge anywhere

If nowadays you walk down a street, you will see a parking space in front of every house. Drivers prefer to have their cars in sight. When electric driving becomes customary, flexibility is expected from the user. Parking and charging in front of their own house will not always be possible. “An EV is actually a battery on wheels,” says De Graaf, amongst others. “You can charge anywhere, and why won’t you do so?” For example, charging can be done at the workplace or at other public locations. In this way, the pressure on the grid in the neighbourhood is relieved. Additional advantage in this scenario is that not all EVs will be charged at the same time. In fact, in the near future EVs will be able to lead power back into the grid. With this aspect of smart charging, they can even support the grid during peak hours.

Local authorities: use charging infrastructure smartly

Local authorities can use regulatory policies to relieve the pressure on the power grid in the neighbourhood. In this way they are able to guide the EV driver in changing the charging behaviour. For example, by cleverly spreading charging infrastructure within a neighbourhood. But also by constructing facillities like charging plazas just outside the neighbourhood. Furthermore, local authorities should consult private parties, for example on company premises. A good charging infrastructure can easily be constructed at those sites. This makes on-site charging ideal for commuting. “You have to get charging out of the neighbourhood as much as possible and facilitate it at companies,” says De Graaf. Also local authorities need to look to the future. Charging infrastructure must be ready for smart charging. It is important to take this into account in an early stage, before formulating policy and tendering for charging infrastructure.

Industry: focus on innovation

There is no doubt the industry can contribute to a flexible energy transition by launching smart charging on a large scale. The project ECISS (Emobility Communication & Information System Structure) has developed an architecture plate in which charging interfaces are placed in the broad context of the power grid. This architecture plate shows that a charging point can be used for more than just energy consumption.

The automotive industry can make a contribution by developing batteries suitable for discharge. Of course, it is also important to continue to improve the performance of batteries and increase their capacity. However, this does mean that the transport capacity of the grid must be increased as well.

Grid operators: growing capacity demand

And what about the grid operators? Surely they have the task of providing enough energy? Up until now, that’s been pretty simple. “The grid has a certain capacity,” De Graaf explains. “In the past, you could use that for at least forty years. But the demand for power is increasing and it is difficult for grid operators to respond flexible to the higher demand”. Demand will grow even faster in the coming years. In spite of this, grid operators are bound because of regulatories. All they can do for now is expand capacity, but there are some hurdles to overcome. Numerous permits are required for construction and it takes a long time to issue them. In addition, grid operators already have quite a few applications open. They find it difficult to fulfill those, for example because there is a lack of trained staff.

Government: proactive for ambitions energy transition

The Netherlands is committed to the energy transition. By means of subsidies and other measures, politicians are doing everything in their power to make electric driving accessible to a broad public and logistics in the Netherlands. “But the government’s role is not over by doing so,” emphasizes De Graaf. “There is also a task to increase the power capacity in such a way that the Netherlands doesn’t get into trouble if we all have an EV.” In the current situation, the charging infrastructure is inadequate for the ambitions of politicians, let alone the grid capacity. “The government will have to adopt a proactive policy in this respect,” says De Graaf. For example this can be done by supporting grid managers in expanding their capacity and giving local authorities more flexibility to develop their own proposals for smart charging infrastructure.

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