Turn charging new energy vehicles into power grid stabilization tools

Today, most new energy vehicles are charged through existing power sources, and many of these power sources are still using non-renewable energy sources (such as grid power). In order to maintain carbon neutrality or carbon negative status and deal with the serious impact of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) strongly recommended the use of renewable energy in its sixth assessment report.

Author: Adam Kimmel

In 2020, the global sales of new energy vehicles increased by 41%, and the total number was close to 3 million. This was achieved when the overall sales of vehicles fell by 6% that year. All regions have contributed to this change: the European Union will surpass China to become the largest new energy vehicle import market in 2020; the United States has also established a new energy vehicle market that will account for 50% of new energy vehicles purchased by enterprises and institutions in 2030. Target. At the same time, China still has more new energy vehicles on the road than any other geographic area, reaching 4.5 million; the EU’s figure is 3.2 million. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), there are currently about 6.8 million pure electric vehicles (BEVs) on the world’s roads, and this number will increase to 250 million by 2030. The electrification of automobiles will be an ongoing process. In less than ten years, the cost of new energy vehicles will drop to a level equivalent to that of traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, and the demand for the former will usher in significant growth. As a result, a thorny problem quickly emerged: when the cost problem is resolved, the charging problem will become the next factor hindering the popularization of new energy vehicles.

Current status of new energy vehicle charging

Today, most new energy vehicles are charged through existing power sources, and many of these power sources are still using non-renewable energy sources (such as grid power). In order to maintain carbon neutrality or carbon negative status and deal with the serious impact of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) strongly recommended the use of renewable energy in its sixth assessment report. If the charging infrastructure is converted to use renewable energy (solar energy, wind energy, biomass energy, hydropower), the availability and reliability of these energy sources will naturally have some shortcomings, but new energy vehicles are still transportation applications to achieve carbon emission reduction Important way. Therefore, the industry must provide answers to the following questions:

・ How does solar power cope with night or cloudy days?
・ How does wind power deal with irregular winds or insufficient wind conditions?
・ Can the process of converting renewable energy into electricity completely eliminate carbon emissions?

To answer these key questions, it is necessary to analyze the current method of obtaining power from the grid and the conditions required for charging new energy vehicles.

Global sources of electricity

In different regions, the power source of the main grid is very different; even within a specific geographic area, the power source of adjacent regions may be different. Figure 1 shows the changes in global electricity production methods since 1985, from which we can see:

・ Coal still dominates the world, but there has been a downward trend
・ Natural gas ranks second, has been increasing since 2010, and is currently stable
・ Renewable energy accounts for a small proportion, but has shown a clear growth trend. Wind energy and solar energy have grown rapidly since 2010
・ In 2020, the proportion of global electricity sources is as follows:

Coal: 34%
Natural gas: 23%
Hydropower and other renewable energy sources: 19%
Nuclear power: 10%
Wind energy: 7%
Petroleum: 4%
Solar energy: 3%

Turn charging new energy vehicles into power grid stabilization tools
Figure 1: Global electricity production methods (Source: Our World in Data)

According to the above-mentioned research, about 39% of the world’s current electricity comes from low-carbon energy sources including nuclear energy and renewable energy. Renewable energy sources (hydropower, wind energy, solar energy, etc.) account for 29% of global energy production and have been increasing linearly since 2011.

As global energy demand continues to rise from 80 TWh in 2020 to 525 to 860 TWh in 2030, increasing the proportion of renewable energy has become a very necessary thing. Population growth and the electrification movement are driving this trend. However, another key factor in the increase in electricity demand stems from the pressure of climate change. At this stage, nearly two-thirds of the world’s electricity still comes from fossil fuels. We must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and switch to using renewable energy that is more climate-friendly.

However, this rapidly increasing electrification trend will put tremendous pressure on the grid, because the grid load during peak charging periods will become greater and the storage of renewable energy will also face greater challenges. To alleviate the impact of the surge in demand on the charging infrastructure, technological innovation is a good prescription, and the vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology is one of these innovations, which allows electric energy to flow in both directions between the grid and new energy vehicles.

Introduction to V2G

When the V2G technology is adopted, the power grid seems to be equipped with many mobile charging treasures, which decentralize the energy storage work from the power station, forming a pattern similar to edge computing. This technology can use the electricity carried by each new energy vehicle on the road, flexibly send electricity back to the grid when needed, and the electricity obtained through off-grid charging can also be used; that is, V2G is turned on Two-way energy transmission between the grid and the vehicle. V2G can work because a considerable number of consumers only use a small part of the battery capacity; this method can optimize battery utilization and allow the same components to produce more benefits.

V2G optimizes the production, use and transportation of electricity. Car batteries will be networked with remote energy storage solutions to increase power transmission to the grid during peak power consumption periods, and optimize power supply during vehicle charging (night or low power consumption periods). V2G can also provide data on energy usage habits of car owners, encouraging them to more actively manage energy use and reduce travel costs by optimizing their behavior; at the same time, car owners can also sell electricity to the grid to obtain a new source of income . Reducing the total cost of ownership of new energy vehicles is one of the basic market drivers for increasing its global adoption rate.

In addition, from the electricity data generated by V2G, we can also know when vehicles are used and when they generate electricity. This also helps public utilities to optimize energy production based on trends in demand and consumer behavior, reducing energy suppliers and Consumer costs.

V2G can also provide a social benefit: it can provide such capabilities to places where there is no remote energy storage facility. The greatest advantage of connecting the vehicle’s electricity consumption to the grid is that it can store, regulate, and supply electricity between the vehicle and the grid as needed.

Solar green new energy vehicles and charging infrastructure

Green electric vehicle charging uses solar panels, allowing photons to excite electrons, generating current to flow to the vehicle and filling the charging capacity of the battery. The infrastructure that supplies power to the grid or home is the user’s household new energy car charger. The circuit that transfers energy from the grid to the battery can also be used to transfer the excess energy in the battery back to the grid and earn income at market or negotiated prices. Electricity demand and energy availability determine whether energy is obtained from the grid or fed back to the grid. This structure provides a way to provide energy on demand, while saving excess energy for future use.

For intermittent solar power generation, to keep the power supply capacity stable for on-demand use, a natural way is to combine it with battery energy storage. When the battery is fully charged, these energy sources can be used anywhere as needed, whether in the car or at home. V2G solves the storage problem of renewable energy, which is one of the main challenges remaining in the process of increasing the utilization rate of renewable energy.

What other challenges will affect the use of renewable energy?

One of the advantages of electricity is its high efficiency. It directly converts the chemical energy of the battery into electrical energy, eliminating the thermal energy intermediate link that produces carbon emissions, and this link has a 30% efficiency loss. With the surge in power demand, V2G can indeed alleviate the instability of renewable energy and the pressure on the grid, but there are still some challenges to overcome before this technology is widely adopted.

At present, DC charging for vehicles is ushering in development opportunities, so a converter of appropriate size is needed to convert AC power to DC power for energy transmission. Although AC-DC converters with conversion efficiency as high as 95% have appeared now, many of these products can still only achieve efficiencies of 80%-90%. Therefore, it is necessary for the industry to customize the power converter according to the battery capacity of the new energy vehicle, and strive to improve the conversion efficiency, thereby directly increasing the power output.

Concluding remarks and refining the main points

New energy vehicles driven by renewable energy can play a huge role in the regulation of the renewable energy grid through V2G technology. This method can fill the battery capacity of new energy vehicles when green solar energy is available, and obtain power from the grid or send the power back to the grid as needed. V2G provides a flexible energy storage option that solves a major problem in renewable energy applications. This technology links energy availability with consumer demand, actively attracts users, and provides energy suppliers and consumers with efficient and economical methods.

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