2012-03-12 - Car manufacturers at this year’s Geneva Motor Show will continue to demonstrate their commitment to smaller, more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly cars to an audience whose focus continues to be price and energy efficiency.
Electric vehicles will gather a lot of attention as companies present new models, such as Ford’s first all-electric car, the Focus Electric, but before making a purchase consumers still want to know how quickly and conveniently they would be able to charge an electric vehicle.
Hans Streng, General Manager of electric vehicle charging infrastructure at ABB, talks about global fast-charging electric vehicle installations, the potential options for consumers to pay for charging their electrical vehicles and the current market challenges facing electric vehicle manufacturers.
How many chargers per vehicle will be needed to be able to service the increasing number of EVs on the road?
There are many types of chargers that operate at different power levels. Generally, below 7kW one would need 1-1.5 charger per electric vehicle due to the relatively long charging time (4-6 hours per car based on the use of one charger at home and a possible shared one at the office).
At power levels of >10kW one charger can charge 10 vehicles. Similarly, a 50kW charger could charge roughly 50 vehicles. Essentially, the number of charging points will grow according to the increase in use of electric vehicles.
How will the grid cope with the increasingly large number of EVs on the road?
The core grid will not have a problem supplying the electricity over the next few decades. The problem will show up around the substations because the periphery of the grid has not been designed to handle large increases in local demand at peak times, e.g. suburbs in the evening. ABB offers charging management and demand response solutions to deal precisely with these localized demand issues.
Which countries are taking the lead in terms of fast charger installations?
Countries such as Japan and countries in northwestern Europe, where gas prices and/or oil imports are high, the population is dense (i.e. commute distances are limited to an average of 100-200 km), and the political and economic climate is stable are, in theory, best suited to install fast charging stations quickly. The US will follow a bit later and the rest of Asia is a bit of a wild card at the moment.
What are the current market challenges?
Firstly, there is some reluctance to make big investments given the current economic climate. Secondly, the high prices of batteries mean that EVs remain expensive, although batteries are rapidly becoming cheaper. The chicken and egg situation that is the current range of EVs (around 150km) and the availability of charging infrastructure is also a factor, although this too should resolve itself after a couple of turbulent years. Lastly, over the last few years the large players, especially car OEMs, are taking protective measures to delay competing developments so as to avoid missing the market.
Is ABB interested in making off-the-grid, solar powered EV charging stations?
Yes, we are exploring many local energy management options including local generation, local buffering, vehicle-2-home and vehicle-2-grid solutions.
How do you see consumers being billed for charging their vehicle?
There are many potential charging models, which range from normal billing according to kWhs usage to loyalty schemes where you can earn '"kWhs"' like airmiles and use them at home, to free charging tokens when you buy from local shops. It’s likely that telecoms operators will offer EV charging options through mobile devices for their customers. We are also likely to see schemes whereby consumers and utilities can trade the charging capacity of the Lithium battery for temporary energy storage. In Japan it will become mandatory shortly to be able to use an EV to power your house. In the event of a power outage, for example during a tsunami threat, you will have a 24-48 hour buffer available. We have only seen a tip of the iceberg.
According to the IEA, 80 percent of electricity generation by 2035 will still come from fossil fuels. How will EVs help to reduce CO2 emissions?
EVs can run on electricity generated from renewable energy sources like solar and wind, which is impossible in combustion engines. The younger generation is shifting its transportation habits from long haul combustion cars to city car-sharing and long-haul public transport. This is a global phenomenon and could significantly increase the use of electric transportation, including trains. EVs will naturally support this movement, which will in turn help to reduce smog levels in large cities such as Mexico City, Los Angeles, Beijing and Tokyo.
Can you envisage a scenario where EV batteries are used as back-up energy storage units during peak times or when renewable energy is less available?
Absolutely, a lot of tests have taken place worldwide already. The expected scenario is that second-hand batteries from EVs (these are expected to be replaced when the battery still has 80 percent of the original capacity after 7-10 years) will serve as low-cost buffer batteries for homes and offices. This will be a major asset within local power management and grid-demand management.
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