The Storage Problem: Electric Vehicles Can Support Large-Scale Renewable Energy Adoption
Sebastian Peck considers the potential of electric vehicles to help cope with supply / demand fluctuations and storage limitations that are holding back the wider production and adoption of renewable energy
To deliver on the promise of zero-emission transport, it is not only necessary to reduce tailpipe emissions, but also to expand the production and storage of renewable energy. If the electricity needed to charge your EV is not from renewable sources, the full potential of EVs to decarbonize transportation cannot be realized. Electric vehicles can play an important role in grid balancing, while second life batteries play an essential role in energy storage. This interdependence of the automotive and energy sectors creates an abundance of exciting innovations, from smart charging software to mobile storage solutions that are part of a circular value chain for used batteries, transforming the battery to ‘a liability into an asset.
Connect EVs to the energy system
The production of renewable energy is intermittent by nature: the sun does not always shine and the wind does not blow. Energy must therefore be stored behind the meter in order to capture excess supply and release energy during peak demand. EVs are indeed batteries on wheels. For example, the battery of a Jaguar I Pace (90 kWh) can power an average UK household for more than a week. Smart charging connects a vehicle to the grid, stores energy at the edge of the grid when it’s not needed, and releases it when it’s needed. Electric vehicle owners can configure the software in such a way that their mobility needs are taken into account, such as making sure the vehicle is 80% charged every morning at 7:30 a.m. as they help balance the network. We also predict that EV as a storage device will become an increasingly attractive choice for households that produce their own energy.
To deliver on the promise of zero-emission transport, it is not only necessary to reduce tailpipe emissions, but also to expand the production and storage of renewable energy.
However, to really make an impact, it’s important to think big. In Adelaide, South Australia, three thousand solar-powered homes and batteries were connected to create a virtual power plant, alleviating the stress on the power grid caused by peaks and dips in solar energy. Energy is stored in batteries and released during peak demand periods. By bundling power in this way and establishing central control over residential systems, the economy begins to become viable. Energy that is not needed can be fed back into the grid using cloud-based software.
A second life for batteries
As sales of electric vehicles increase, the focus is on finding ways to extend the useful life of batteries as much as possible before they are recycled. Once EV batteries degrade below 70% of their original performance, they are no longer considered suitable for automotive use. However, there are a growing number of second life use cases that allow OEMs to realize additional value from batteries that have reached the end of their first life, turning them from a liability to an asset.
As second life use cases proliferate, this should have a positive impact on the price of the electric vehicle sticker. Companies like Off Grid in the UK are producing mobile storage solutions for construction sites and events, replacing conventional diesel generators with a more sustainable alternative. The company sources battery cells from equipment manufacturers and reuses them for its energy storage solutions.
Recycling capacity becomes more efficient
Battery recycling is a growing business and recycling technologies are becoming more and more efficient. Companies like Battery Resourcers are leading the way, going beyond simply extracting valuable raw materials during the recycling process to producing a cathode material that performs as well as virgin material but considerably cheaper. The cathode is the most expensive component of a battery, accounting for over 40% of its costs. The use of recycled materials makes it possible to both reduce the cost of the battery and its environmental impact, while respecting the regulations in force.
If the electricity needed to charge your EV is not from renewable sources, the full potential of EVs to decarbonize transportation cannot be realized.
Close the loop
The goal of each OEM is to achieve full circularity for their batteries, starting with the use of the battery in the car, through to its second life as an energy storage medium, until that it be recycled and that the extracted materials be reintegrated into a new battery. packages. The industry is seeing rapid innovation across this value chain that is moving it closer and closer to full circularity, thereby improving both the profitability and environmental performance of electric vehicle batteries.
Growth in renewable energy production is an important catalyst for second life applications, as are increasingly stringent environmental regulations for job sites and events that are driving demand for mobile storage solutions that replace diesel generators. . For OEMs, this new circular battery value chain also means that more value can be extracted from batteries, which helps make electric vehicle production more economically viable. The creation of virtual power plants, connecting thousands of homes and solar-powered batteries, creates exciting possibilities for integrating electric vehicles into a more sustainable energy solution by creating vehicle-to-grid connections through smart, two-way charging technology. . Thinking about electric vehicles in this holistic way portends an exciting future.
About the Author: Sebastian Peck is Managing Director of InMotion Ventures