Integrating electric vehicles into the grid – three takeaways

E-mobility heads Federico Caleno at Enel X and Sven Jaspers at Nuon/Vattenfall discuss the grid integration of electric vehicles.
Published: Thu 08 Feb 2018

The transition to electric vehicles (EVs) signifies a huge opportunity but also significant challenges for the energy sector. It presents difficulties in areas such as grid integration, generation, storage, demand response, business models and collaboration, and regulatory navigation.

According to the last Global EV Outlook, in 2016 the total EV stock surpassed two million units. With continued growth, the number could reach as many as 20 million units by 2020 and at least double again to 40 million by 2025.

That world will be a different place as more and longer journeys are travelled in EVs. With this, the charging requirements for this growing load will become increasingly complex, with unidirectional vehicle-to-grid integration for managed charging and bidirectional for flexibility aggregation.

Utilities readying for EVs

While the charging wars are just heating up with the auto manufacturers and oil companies leading the skirmish, the energy sector as the power and infrastructure provider needs to be ready for EV grid integration.

In support, Engerati is running a series of webinars drawing on practical experiences, which will culminate in a face to face specialist meeting in Vienna in June.

In the first webinar, Federico Caleno, Head of E-mobility Solutions Development at Enel X, and Sven Jaspers, Head of e-Mobility Product Development and Strategy at Nuon/Vattenfall, present their companies’ respective activities in advancing the use and grid integration of EVs.

Among the takeaways from these discussions, we highlight three – the role of platforms, the need to understand EV charging behaviours and the potential of open standards to drive innovation.

Digital platforms are key

Enel has been gaining experiences on EVs in Italy and other countries where it operates for almost a decade. The company has developed a full range of charging stations for homes and businesses and fast charging stations for major highways. It is active in rolling out charging infrastructure in Italy and elsewhere. It is working with companies such as Nissan and Audi on EV grid integration.

With Enel’s acquisition of the US e-mobility solutions provider eMotorWerks in October 2017, the stage was set to bring these activities together on to a single platform, JuiceNet – an internet of things platform for the management of EV charging and other distributed energy storage facilities.

“We are developing a platform for vehicle-to-grid integration globally with the possibility to create a unique portfolio of products,” says Caleno, noting that the 30,000 charging stations under Enel’s management globally are connected.

Caleno says the platform is open to all players providing services to the market: “with the functionality of aggregation, we are able to provide flexibility and services to the grid. These include demand response, reserve market and capacity market services and energy optimisation.”

Understanding EV charging behaviour

Vattenfall has been another utility leader in e-mobility, testing their use in locations such as the island of Gotland and the second life use of EV batteries in utility-scale storage applications.

Currently, the company is running a pilot project in Amsterdam to develop best practices for smart charging. With charging coinciding with peak power usage, smart charging could defer or avoid the need for DSO investments in grid reinforcement.

“We found that the charge time/connection time ratio in Amsterdam was about 30%, suggesting that there is quite some flexibility in when the charging can be done,” explains Jaspers of the background to the project.

Early results have shown that such flexibility exists and the peak load can be reduced, but also that there is a rebound effect with the load increasing directly after the peak. However, with the loads from nearby buildings also having dropped by then, there is no shifted peak impact on the grid.

“Overall users are better off as they are charged 2kW more in less charging time, which is a great result,” says Jaspers.

Open standards drive innovation

The wide-scale implementation of smart charging will depend largely on a key factor – the availability of open standards.

Jaspers notes the Amsterdam project utilises the Open Charge Point Protocol for communication between the management system and the charging stations. Future work envisages using dynamic rather than static capacity profiles via the local DSO, Enexis and the new Open Smart Charging Protocol.

Further into the future, he envisages building additional services, such as rewarding a driver for visiting a particular charging station or for making available their EV for a specified time to optimise the charging or enable flexibility.

“We need to roll out the standards first and if they are proven to work legally, technically, commercially, the services will follow – but that is maybe years away,” he says.

Caleno concurs, saying that standards are relevant not only from the technical point of view but also for the services provided.

“Our approach is to contract with the customer in order to give them the possibility to be remunerated and, by providing flexibility, to reduce their total cost of EV ownership,” he says.

Enel believes the majority of charging will take place at homes and workplaces when EVs are parked for several hours.

Either way, there is one key challenge for vehicle-to-grid integration. From the EV driver’s perspective, their vehicle must be available when they want it with sufficient charge for the journey they are about to undertake. And that needs to be met if consumers are to participate.