One of the biggest pieces of misinformation flying around about EV adoption is that power grids can’t handle electric vehicles. We’ve debunked this one repeatedly (you can find a good article here), but it’s something we keep seeing and seeing and seeing. This is largely because it’s a very good simple lie that has enough truth in it to sound like it’s the whole truth.
But, I have to admit that most debunkings don’t have one detail quite right. Simply explaining how the grid can handle today’s EVs, and many with night charging, isn’t the whole truth, either. Adding that the grid has come a long way in past decades, and that the EV transition will be gradual over decades, also doesn’t quite cover it all. Even explaining how little energy most EVs use for commuting doesn’t bring the counterargument to completion.
The truth is, we often forget to explain that EVs are not only something the grid can survive, but something the grid will use going forward to be even healthier than it is today.
Some recent news from Volkswagen shows us that using EVs to stabilize the grid is far from being a dream. It’s something big industry players are actively pursuing and it’s something they’ll achieve.
The Good News From Volkswagen
Elia Group and its startup re.alto just signed a MoU in Berlin with Elli, the Volkswagen subsidiary that manages all activities relating to charging and energy for Volkswagen Group in Europe. The MoU recognizes the signatories’ shared goal of integrating electric cars into the grid. In coming years, the partners will examine potential barriers to EV integration as well as how to showcase their benefits, such as by developing demonstrators.
The signatories — Elli, Elia, and re.alto — believe that the growing number of electric cars may provide significant opportunities to combat climate change in the next decade: Electric vehicle batteries can aid in stabilizing grids as the share of variable renewable energies grows, because they store electricity. When there is a lot of cheap renewable energy in the system, consumers will be able to charge their vehicles and inject the electricity stored in them back into the grid when it is most required. This would allow customers to have an active role in the energy transition.
“An essential key to achieving climate neutrality lies in linking of the energy and mobility sectors. Using the electric vehicle battery as a mobile power bank delivers a triple benefit: Firstly, the climate benefits as renewable energy can be stored and therefore be used more efficiently; secondly, the electric grid benefits, as the car can contribute toward grid stability; and thirdly, the customer can earn additional revenue with vehicle-to-grid services,” said Elke Temme, the CEO of Elli (Volkswagen Group Charging GmbH) and Senior Vice President of Charging & Energy at Volkswagen AG. “To explore the benefits of this consumer-centric approach, this cooperation with Elia Group is crucial for us.”
Elia Group, re.alto, and Elli agreed to undertake joint activities with the aim of illustrating the benefits of e-vehicles integrating into the electricity system. The companies will focus their work on four areas:
- Price signals/incentives: investigating if and how pricing signals can motivate electric vehicle owners to use their assets as decentralised storage capacity through vehicle-to-grid technology in order to support the power system.
- Market design: exploring how to give customers the freedom to select their energy provider, regardless of where they have traveled. This will also include tackling issues such as removing barriers that prevent EV fleets and consumers from selecting their suppliers, smart charging service providers, and aggregators at charging poles.
- Trusted data: making sure that data from electric vehicles is seen as dependable and safe, and can be used by power systems.
- Data security and safe connectivity: finding ways that allow data to be sent securely, and identifying who is responsible for making sure electric vehicles are charged safely while also maintaining secure connectivity.
“The rapid rise in electric vehicles is reinforcing the need for cooperation between the electricity and mobility sectors,” said Chris Peeters, the CEO of Elia Group. “We want to enable the increasing number of EV users to charge their EVs while keeping the electricity system in balance. As a next step, the batteries of these cars will also be able to be used in such a way that they will contribute to the overall levels of energy comfort experienced by end users. Elli shares the same vision of the future regarding electric mobility as us and also has a strong focus on digital innovations. In the context of sector convergence, we are therefore the ideal partners to develop digital consumer services together.”
In the four areas, each partner will bring his or her own expertise to the project’s work. Elia can provide charging infrastructure, mobility services, flexibility services, and electricity provision as a supplier of energy transformation solutions. Elia Group has significant experience in analyzing energy system change issues and possibilities. re.alto — which was formed by Elia Group in 2019 — is an expert in digital marketplaces and integrating energy data into software programs.
The signing of the MoU promotes and extends the collaboration between 50Hertz (a German subsidiary of Elia Group) and Elli. This tie was established in 2020 and has already done work on reserve market projects.
Volkswagen Wants To Expand Into Charging & Energy More
While Volkswagen is already a growing player in energy and charging with Electrify America, it wants to do much more.
In its NEW AUTO approach, Volkswagen Group has included charging and energy in its business core. Elli is a subsidiary of Volkswagen Group that focuses on ensuring that consumers are informed about energy and mobility at the touchpoints between energy and mobility. In Europe, Elli is the Volkswagen Group brand that provides consumers with a wide range of energy and charging solutions as well as mobile services provider. Its product range currently includes charging solutions for private customers and companies — from the customers’ own wallboxes and Flexpole quick-charging stations to charging services and innovative green power rates.
“At Elli, we want to make it easy for everyone to reap the benefits of green energy. Our goal is to offer a charging experience that is seamless and holistic for all electric car drivers and fleet managers. We were founded in 2018, and our offices are located in Berlin, Wolfsburg, and Munich.”
Featured image: F.l. Chris Peeters, CEO of Elia; Elke Temme, CEO of Elli; and Stefan Kapferer, CEO of 50Hertz; signing the MoU. Image provided by Volkswagen.
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