Widespread deployment of smart charging will minimise the impact on the electricity grid from electric vehicles (EVs) and unlock the flexibility to use more solar and wind power.
With the average car on the road for only 5% of the time, parked and plugged-in EVs could be the ‘battery banks’ of the future, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
Its new report, Innovation Outlook: smart charging for electric vehicles, examines how national grids can implement a strategy for energy transition that makes the most of EVs.
“EVs at scale can create vast electricity storage capacity, but if everyone simultaneously charges their cars in the morning or evening, electricity networks can become stressed,” said Dolf Gielen, director of IRENA’s Innovation and Technology Centre. “The timing of charging is therefore critical. ‘Smart charging’, which both charges vehicles and supports the grid, unlocks a virtuous circle in which renewable energy makes transport cleaner and EVs support larger shares of renewables.”
Many countries, including the UK, have announced plans to phase out petrol and diesel cars.
IRENA’s analysis indicates that if most of the passenger vehicles sold from 2040 onwards were electric, more than 1 billion EVs could be on the road by 2050 – up from around 6 million today. In terms of energy storage capacity, this represents a huge potential resource. It’s thought that around 14 terra-watt hours (TWh) of EV batteries could be available to provide grid services, compared to just 9 TWh of stationary batteries.
“By decreasing EV-charging stress on the grid, smart charging can make electricity systems more flexible for renewable energy integration, and provide a low-carbon electricity option to address the transport sector, all while meeting mobility needs,” Gielen concluded.