Electric car owners must change their habits
Owners of electric cars must make more conscious choices about when to charge their vehicles. Not just between 18:00 and 22:00, but at other times as well. During the night for instance. Otherwise they will overload the power grid and reduce the environmental impact of electric vehicles.
This message was given by a diverse group of businesses and institutions working in the electric vehicle sector and with a particular interest EV charging issues. The local authorities in the Dutch provinces of Gelderland and Overijssel want to install 4,500 smart charging points in 44 municipalities to make it more attractive for drivers to charge their cars outside peak times.
“We can deal with the capacity right now, but if the number of electric cars really does keep growing at the current rate, there will be a million of them on the roads in a few years. Making it impractical for everybody to charge their cars at roughly the same time,” says Matthijs Nieuwenhuis of Living Lab Smart Charging, an association which focuses on finding more efficient ways to charge cars.
When there’s excessive demand, coal-fired power stations have to boost their production. Matthijs Nieuwenhuis, Living Lab Smart Charging
One potential problem is overloading the electricity grid. “We have a solid power grid in the Netherlands and it can handle considerable demand. But not if electric driving really takes off and we all want to charge our vehicles at the same time.”
The group also claims that electric driving would not be as environmentally friendly as people think if everybody plugged their car into the charger around the same time. “When demand reaches extreme highs, there won’t be enough wind and solar power to meet it. So you’ll have to boost production from coal-fired power stations,” says Nieuwenhuis. “In fact you’d be creating massive additional emissions. Electric vehicles would be making the environmental problem worse, which is kind of missing the point.”
The survey into charging habits of electric drivers was commissioned in collaboration between Enexis, Liander, Enpuls, Alliander, ElaadNL, Living Lab Smart Charging, provincial and local authorities in Gelderland and Overijssel. Currently there are almost 38,000 charging points in the Netherlands. A few thousand drivers charge their e-cars at a smart charging point.
This consortium believes that e-car drivers need to change their behaviour. “Like all of us, electric vehicle drivers are creatures of habit. You come home and put the car on the charger. You’ll be able to do that in future as well; but we hope that people will then be using a smart charging point which will supply the car with power outside peak periods and only start to charge when sustainable electricity is available. The driver can use an app to send that information to the charging point.”
Nieuwenhuis gives an example: “Say you get home around 18:00. You can then decide if you need to give the car a short charge just to give enough power for use in an emergency. Then you charge the rest of the battery during the night. You can program that yourself. And it should be cheaper to charge the car with sustainable energy outside peak times.”
The local authorities in Overijssel and Gelderland want to install 4,500 smart charging stations as soon as possible. “Drivers of electric vehicles can apply for one,” says Nieuwenhuis. “And we want to track the behaviour of these users over a three-year period. That will give us valuable information about what electric drivers want.”