Grid Modernisation is vital for Electric Vehicle Revolution

News Article

In the race towards an electrified future, the success of electric vehicles (EVs) hinges on grid modernisation. With around 75 million additional EVs expected on European roads by 2030, the electricity grid must be ready to support this uptake.

“Zero emission transport is not only about vehicles, but also about infrastructure energy supply and market demand all together”

- says Dr Anders Berger, Director Group Public Affairs at Volvo Group during a session at Eurelectric’s e-mobility event EVision 2024.

Developing synergies between grids and EVs is imperative to the success of both these facets of the green transition. Ways in which e-mobility can give back to the grid are excellent examples of such synergies. Smart charging, vehicle-to-X (V2X) technology, improved flexibility, data interoperability and regulatory advancements – are all important components of the rEVolution’s arsenal, as outlined in Eurelectric-EY’s study, and can help tackle current grid challenges. This introduces boundless opportunities, but also numerous obstacles.

Overcoming grid hurdles…


To propel this revolution forward, addressing the current grid’s shortcomings is crucial. Despite ongoing infrastructure development, progress is sluggish. Between 2021-2022, the EU grid saw a mere 0.8% expansion in kilometres shows our PowerBarometer 2023, highlighting the urgent need for accelerated advancements.

Today, the grid faces unprecedented pressures: from aging infrastructure, to limited capacity, increasing power demand and scarce visibility of new decentralised assets coming online, according to the Connecting the Dots 2021 report. With a projected yearly electricity demand increase of +1.8% per year, these roadblocks will only worsen without swift action.

…with innovation and synergic planning


In order to harness the synergies between EVs and grids, we must make grid modernisation a priority.

“Practices have been very old fashioned – how can we jointly address these challenges?” – asks Dr Berger.

Throughout EVision, numerous innovative solutions were put forth to address limited grid capacity and answer the need for greater visibility over connection requests as well as more flexibility for balancing the system. Smart charging, V2X and data interoperability emerged time and time again as the recurring solutions.

As shown in our previous article, smart charging stations are capable of determining the best time to charge your EV by analysing various factors such as the time of day, electricity demand, grid capacity, the amount of renewable energy available locally, and customers’ preferences.

Whenever an EV is plugged into a charging station, data on the vehicle’s charging time, speed, and power level is sent via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to a cloud-based management platform. Data is then matched and compared to the local grid’s capacity and the energy use of the specific charging site at that given moment. The information gathered is ultimately analysed and shown in real-time by the platform, to help make automated decisions on when it’s best to charge the vehicle.

This way, charging operators can easily track and manage energy usage through the platform, often available on the web as well as through mobile applications. The EV owner, on the other hand, can enjoy a smooth charging experience by monitoring the process and even making payments via the mobile app.

However, effective smart charging can only be achieved through the integration of a smart grid as stated in our Eurelectric-EY report. This means grids that enable a two-way flow of energy as well as demand-response capabilities. Another future-led aspect of this modernisation includes vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology. The latter would allow for the grid to push and pull energy to and from connected vehicles if energy demand gets too high, exemplifying a great way to provide flexibility to the system and contribute to balancing the grid. In fact, such ideas could help address high cost challenges posed by this need for modernisation, with V2G potentially lowering grid reinforcement costs by 10%, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reports.


Revving up regulation:


In Europe, grid and charging infrastructure progress relies on robust regulatory backing from the EU. Future regulatory plans cannot occur without existing wrinkles in the legislation getting resolved first.

"Regulation sometimes blocks grid expansion; not all regulators are willing to take risks before demand arises." – points out Jacques Warichet, Power System Transformation Analyst at the International Energy Agency (IEA).

These challenges become evident when comparing rollout experiences across EU countries.

The positive effects of well-adapted regulation and campaigning can be easily observed in numerous EU regions, most notably in Flanders. Soetkin Jehaes, advisor to the Flemish Minister for Mobility, shared during the panel the methods employed by her government in the region’s pursuit of achieving full EV adoption.

A clever three-pronged approach was applied, focusing on establishing charging points at home, in workplaces and along roadsides. As a result, their ambitious goal of introducing ultra-fast charging points every 25 kilometres by 2025 seems within reach instead of feeling like an unrealistic dream, underlining the importance of urbanisation and flat landscapes in infrastructure development.

Jehaes also stressed the need for cross-border collaboration and the exchange of best practices.

"In Europe, a one-size-fits-all approach to charging infrastructure rollout isn't feasible," she argued. "We must collaborate across borders and learn from each other's successes."

Harnessing the power of data interoperability

In working to build these new technologies, leveraging data sharing is proving to be essential.

“What is lacking right now is broadening the scope of this interoperability” states Rutger Plantenga, Chief Product Office at Greenflux.

While initial stages saw relatively smooth interoperability in organisation, protocol development spurred increased interest among involved parties. Consequently, consensus at the sessions emphasised the necessity of unlocking data from all players. More data sharing can also allow for the optimisation of systems as well as a common architecture where communication amongst all players is prioritised.

“Digitisation of grids really needs to speed up – we should connect charging stations to algorithms” Plantenga says.

But solutions are on the way, exemplified by pilots from ESB, where customers allow charging to be done on their behalf. Collaboration among stakeholders and innovative capacity utilisation clearly emerge as critical strategies in addressing the challenge of data interoperability for e-mobility.

Navigating the road ahead: integrating e-mobility with power grids


Though challenges exist, e-mobility and grid infrastructure can and must leverage capabilities to help each other out. The e-mobility transition can move itself forward with the help of modern grid solutions with smart charging and V2X technologies leading the way. Central to this transformation lies strong data interoperability, supportive regulatory frameworks, and a reinforced digitalised grid infrastructure to ensure the transitions  runs as smoothly and effectively as driving an electric vehicle.