IRENA Report looks at Smart Charging as Next Step in Electric Mobility

IRENA in its innovation outlook talked about the synergy of Renewable energy and electric vehicles as the next big step in transforming the transport sector through smart charging

IRENA’s new Innovation Outlook explores Smart Charging’s potential and builds on how EVs present a viable opportunity to introduce much higher shares of renewables into the overall power generation mix. It goes on to say, that EVs charging can create significant electricity demand which can be cost-effectively be met with renewables like Solar and Wind energy.

The report therefore adds that Cars, including EVs, typically spend about “95% of their lifetime parked”. These idle periods, combined with battery storage capacity, could make EVs an attractive flexibility solution for the power system. Each EV could effectively become a micro grid-connected storage unit with the potential to provide a broad range of services to the system. At the same time, however, uncontrolled charging could increase peak stress on the grid, necessitating upgrades at the distribution level.

Advanced forms of smart charging

The outlook investigates the potential between variable renewable energy (VRE) sources – solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind power – and EVs. It considers how this potential could be tapped through smart charging.

Smart Charging

Smart charging, according to the outlook, means adapting the charging cycle of EVs to both the conditions of the power system and the needs of vehicle users. This facilitates the integration of EVs while meeting mobility needs.

IRENA analysis indicates that future EV battery capacity may dwarf stationary battery capacity. In 2050, around 14 TWh of EV batteries would be available to provide grid services, compared to 9 TWh of stationary batteries.

EV fleets can create vast electricity storage capacity. However, optimal charging patterns will depend on the precise energy mix.

Smart charging allows a certain level of control over the charging process. It includes different pricing and technical charging options like Time-of-use charging at present. The report adds that more advanced smart charging approaches, such as direct control mechanisms will be necessary as a long-term solution. Smart charging could provide flexibility at both the system and local levels.

The report also highlights the short-term and long-term benefits of smart charging at the system level- ie Solar, and wind.

Long-term impact of EV charging

EV smart charging outlook to 2050

By 2030, flexibility from EVs could increase dramatically if the market uptake is facilitated by ambitious political targets and the availability of smart charging capabilities.

Ultra-fast charging power of 600 kW may be available eventually but would still be used to a limited extent. By 2050, mobility-as-a-service and autonomous vehicles will disrupt mobility and most likely flatten out the rise in available flexibility in the system.

The parking time of shared vehicles may be reduced and focus mostly in hubs in city suburbs, decreasing the flexibility available for balancing solar power.

The report also discussed policy recommendations, business models and various technologies priorities which can further mobility-as-a-service and the eventual shift towards fully autonomous vehicles.

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