Comment: How vehicle-to-grid innovations will make EVs commercially viable
Rob Massoudi, SVP digital transformation at ABB Ability, looks at how V2G solutions could open up electric vehicle usage to many more fleets.
With increasing demand for climate change action, countries across the globe are seeking ways of implementing the electrification of services to power vehicles and move away from fossil fuels. The UK’s committee on climate change has revealed that transport accounts for 33% of the UK’s CO2 emissions, which amounts to more than any other sector in the report.
But while electric vehicles are considered the transportation of the future, in practice, getting and keeping EVs on the road is not that simple. Political, geographical, and technological barriers can impede widespread adoption and use.
Fleet-operating businesses maximise their revenue by operating their vehicles when they need to meet demand peaks.
In an ideal world, fast charging and ultra-fast charging technology would reduce the amount of time that a company spends charging its fleet.
In practice, however, the cost of fast charging and ultra-fast charging infrastructure is expensive and not economically viable for an SME-sized organisation. Businesses in the on-demand and shared mobility market that operate EVs continue to explore ways to secure savings on their energy costs as their energy profiles expand. However, the next step toward maximising energy savings is not necessarily an obvious one.
In order to cope with technological hurdles, created by fragmented markets and lack of infrastructure, companies that operate electric fleets must embrace vehicle-to-grid innovations.
While investment in physical assets such as energy storage or energy generation may deliver incremental cost savings, they still don’t deliver an attractive return on investment (ROI) for SMEs.
Solutions that offer peak demand management (PDM), however, may offer considerable value against the cost to implement them. Digitally enabled solutions could offer next-level PDM and return even greater value to businesses operating fleets.
One opportunity to reduce the cost of energy to a business arises between the first phase where power is taken from the grid to the facility, and the second phase where power is transferred from the facility to its charging fleet. While the energy cost cannot be impacted, as the energy consumed by the fleet is fixed, the cost due to power or peaks can.
At peak times, rather than consuming energy directly from the grid, a site may be able to leverage technologies that store energy, generate localised energy on demand, or provide a combination of both. In the first instance, energy storage such as fixed battery assets, installed at the site in large containerised configurations, can be charged during off-peak times should the tariff support it.
Then, during fleet charging periods, this additional energy capacity can be used to supplement the capacity that is taken directly from the grid to deliver against the demand profile of the fleet. This lowers the peak energy being pulled from the grid and in turn reduces this cost component of energy for the business.
As these types of businesses and EVs continue to operate with growing peaks in energy demand, the grid infrastructure will come under a growing threat of insufficient capacity and energy supply and, more importantly, instability, due to congestion and other secondary effects.
We must think laterally to find digitally informed vehicle-to-grid innovations to get more EVs on the road especially in fleet services. Sustainability goals will only be achieved if they can be embraced into societal infrastructure as quickly as possible and businesses can lead this charge.