The second biggest value pool is public charging stations – turnkey solutions for installation of public EV charging stations, including site evaluation and selection of chargers as well as the operation and maintenance of charging station networks.
Electric vehicles – more specifically the batteries in them – also offer a partial solution to the problems caused by the supply of power from intermittent renewables. Smart grid infrastructure and dynamic time-of-use charging could help soak up surplus supply from renewables, and shave demand from peaks in consumption. In future, as vehicle-to-grid (V2G) capability comes on line, millions of stationary EVs could be linked together to form a giant virtual power plant to meet peaks in demand, such as on a windless winter evening.
Developing EV infrastructure also provides direct opportunities for utilities. For example, SSE Enterprise, an arm of UK utility SSE, provides a range of solutions to support the electrification of vehicle fleets across the private and public sectors.
“We construct, own, operate, maintain and optimise localised energy infrastructure to support EVs,” says Kevin Welstead, Sector Director Electric Vehicles, SSE Enterprise.
The biggest challenge is ensuring that infrastructure can meet anticipated power demand, likely to be concentrated at certain parts of the day, such as during existing evening peaks, when commuters arrive home.
“It’s an open question – will demand from the transport sector exacerbate current demand peaks? We can’t possibly afford to build out capacity to meet maximum possible demand,” says Maria Bengtsson, Director, Transaction Advisory Services, Ernst & Young LLP.
There has also been limited progress in deploying the V2G technology that will allow grid operators to use electric vehicle batteries as a giant distributed source of power supply.
Paying for EV infrastructure also creates equity challenges, particularly during the early phase of the EV uptake. Should the investments needed by utilities and grid operators be shared among all electricity users – as they typically are now – or should those who benefit, the affluent early adopters, shoulder most of the cost?