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Electric Vehicles – Friend or Foe of Utilities

Nitin Goyal's picture

Managing utility clients for more than 15 years spanning various areas like Retail (Customer Information & Billing), T&D (Asset Management, Field operations) etc.

  • Member since 2021
  • 3 items added with 2,513 views
  • Nov 17, 2021

Electric vehicles (EVs) include various types of vehicles like two-wheelers, cars, buses, and commercial vehicles. The EVs can be categorized into three types i.e., Battery electric vehicles (BEVs), Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs).

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) are powered completely by electricity and have an electric motor powered entirely by a large electric battery in place of combustion engine, fuel tank and exhaust pipe. The owner must charge battery via plugging in to an external power outlet.

Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) are most common types and use both combustion engine and electric motor with electric battery. The onboard computer decides when to use fuel vs battery. The battery does not need to be charged externally as the battery gets charged with a process called “Regenerative Braking”, i.e., the battery gets charged a little every time the brake is touched.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) are midway between Battery electric vehicles and Hybrid Electric Vehicles. These vehicles have both electric motor that needs to be charged via external power outlet as well as fuel-based combustion engine. The key difference in PHEVs compared to HEVs & BHE is that PHEVs can travel longer on battery power compared to HEVs but much shorter than BHEVs.

BEVs and PHEVs have impact on Power Grid as both require External power outlet to charge batteries. It is projected that if 70-80% of all cars become electric, the electricity demand would increase by 15-20%. But, if the other vehicle types like two wheelers, buses and commercial vehicles also increase by 20-30%, that would mean additional 20% electricity demand. The market growth so far has primarily been seen in Electric cars compared to other vehicle types. This additional demand poses a challenge as well as a key opportunity for utilities.

EVs can provide flexibility to the electricity supply chain. Rather than looking at the EVs as a threat or a cause of demand fluctuation causing instability, EVs should be looked as a sustainable mechanism for transport as well as a source of energy. As EVs are literally batteries on wheels. They make it possible for electricity to be stored and used later. The EV charges and EVs together can provide an answer to sustainably add significant capacity to offset peak demand with Smart Charging. Smart charging enables charging (and storing) at off peak times and sharing the stored energy during peak demand.

This becomes critical, especially in today’s world when we are struggling to firm up the sustainability agenda across the world. EVs provide a “real” solution to solving a big piece of the puzzle.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Nov 17, 2021

The flexibility of EVs will be key-- not just to ensuring EVs themselves don't overwhelm the grid (which was the concern just a few years ago) but also to the rest of the opportunities you cite. Hopefully utilities are in regular and in depth conversations with the EV supply chain to enable this collaboratively, otherwise roll out would be a mess

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Nov 17, 2021

Yes the ability of electric vehicle to charge on a timer at Off Peak is perfect to help the GRID. The V2G V2H ability of electric vehicles to send power to the GRID is very valuable. But they need the right and a fair rate plan so they will be used in the best way. 

    The big Semi trucks are also coming. Right now pickup and delivery trucks are being delivered. Again the right rate plans will have these large Mega power vehicles helping the Grid.

        Large solar and wind and hydro systems with battery storage can also work with the GRID given fair and proper rates. 

   We all need to work together. This is a great opportunity. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Nov 17, 2021

"This becomes critical, especially in today’s world when we are struggling to firm up the sustainability agenda across the world."

Wasting energy has never been sustainable, and batteries always waste energy. So it's mystifying why anyone would consider storing grid energy in batteries as part of any sustainability agenda.

Henry Craver's picture
Henry Craver on Nov 19, 2021

I also wonder if current driving patterns will hold steady into the ev age. Isn't it possible the way we move completely changes and becomes more efficient? Ride share etc. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Nov 24, 2021

The trend of working from home will probably increase, reducing the need for long commutes. But getting around by ride-share is actually less energy efficient than driving yourself.

Uber and Lyft generate 70 percent more pollution than trips they displace: study

Nitin Goyal's picture
Thank Nitin for the Post!
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