Managed charging solutions can be supplier-managed, via a data connection, to channel energy in one direction, from the grid to the vehicle. In time, as vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technologies mature, EVs will become energy storage units on wheels. They will discharge power from the EV battery to the grid, or to a building, to level out energy production and consumption, reducing the need for additional generation or network reinforcement.
Other solutions are also being piloted. Solar distributed generation and storage co-location, for instance, may be deployed at highway corridor service stations where grid supply is insufficient for fast and superfast charging. Smart wires, to actively balance power flows on transmission lines, and wireless charging are novel concepts that are also being explored. Each of these demand-side solutions creates synergies between the grid and the EV. And though they will not resolve every scenario, they will help to mitigate the impact of large clusters of EVs charging simultaneously. They should:
- Reduce the need for massive grid investment
- Shift a centrally operated power system to a decentralized paradigm, populated by autonomous smart participants
- Allow EV drivers, operating as part of a decentralized and regulated model, to provide balancing capacity to the power system and to be properly remunerated for it
As these solutions mature, digitizing the grid to monitor and validate performance against assumptions will be critical for understanding, anticipating and optimizing customer behaviors, grid impacts and network needs, both now and long into the future.
DSOs will play a pivotal role in eMobility expansion. They are responsible for planning grid development and managing distribution operations and new connections for chargers. But they also have a social obligation to deliver the best environmental outcomes, at the lowest possible cost, by investing in the right locations, at the right time, while avoiding the risk of stranded assets. Their oversight of local networks allows them to identify areas of congestion, to assess the impact from EV charging on electricity demand, and to anticipate future grid investment needs. And, as Europe shifts to smart grids and local flexibility markets, DSOs will be equipped to integrate maturing solutions to shave peak consumption, reduce congestion, and improve power quality and reliability.
As the momentum for EVs gathers pace, planning the power system for electrification is a massive undertaking. To succeed, DSOs need:
- A better understanding of what is happening and where, by improving visibility over low- and medium-voltage networks
- The right skill sets, capabilities and investments to support a fully automated and harmonized customer experience to promote EV take-up
- An ability to track real-time behaviors from the vehicle to the grid and back again, to help manage an increasingly stressed distribution network
The extension of DSOs’ skill sets, and better execution of their responsibilities, will enhance customer centricity. It will help to bring about more innovative solutions, resulting in a better EV experience for drivers.