Electric Vehicles and the Electrical Grid: Can the Relationship Work?

(DGIwire) – Electric vehicles (EVs) feature strongly in a multitude of rosy visions about the future. Unfortunately, these visions don’t go as far at the moment as some might hope, thanks to a sobering realization: today’s electrical grid would likely fail catastrophically if the entire U.S. car fleet immediately made the switch to running on electricity, reports WIRED.

The good news, notes the magazine, is that this challenge is being taken seriously, well in advance of a mass changeover to EVs. Girding the grid for an uptick in demand in straightforward; for example, utilities can start by installing more transformers, so more high-voltage electricity can be transmitted to residential area. But this particular fix could be a costly one: adding new wires capable of carrying more power would be a steep expense shared by all.

“Forward-looking utility companies globally are recognizing the urgent need to prepare for a wide-scale adoption of EVs,” says Stephen Voller, CEO of ZapGo Ltd, the developer of Carbon-Ion™ (C-Ion®) cells, a fast-charging and safe alternative to lithium-ion batteries. “Innovative solutions involve methods of ultrafast charging that can relieve undue stress on the existing electrical grid.”

The challenge is a formidable one. The problem is also coming to the fore in places like Britain, where, as part of its ambitious “decarbonization” target, all cars sold in that country may have to be electric vehicles by 2040—but charging them all will pose a huge logistical challenge. Even with a 50-kilowatt charger, it would take 80 minutes to charge a vehicle with a 90 kilowatt-hour battery from 25 percent to 100 percent, notes a report prepared by SO Energy Insights.

Around the world, utility grids will have to be optimized to support a level of charging that motorists find convenient or else they just won’t use them. Ultra-fast charging, a technology made possible with C-Ion, could be the solution. For example, a 350kW charger would take less than four minutes to charge an average EV of today from 25 to 100 percent. To minimize capital investment, and also to keep the price of electricity low for drivers of electric vehicles, ZapGo proposes to install large containers on filling station sites that initially contain 1MWh of stored energy in its C-Ion cells. On sites with high vehicle throughput, there may be multiple containers installed.

The containers will be charged up at night at off-peak rates using the existing electrical connections to the site. Ultra-fast-charging 350kW chargers will be installed on site connected to the container storage, not directly to the site grid connection. Vehicles will be charged from the stored energy at the 350kW rate.

“There is no doubt that the world is moving away from gas and diesel based vehicles. But there needs to be a way to ensure people don’t have to make a choice between driving EVs and turning on the stove,” Voller adds.

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