The adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) in Europe has been increasing rapidly over the past few years, crossing 1.5 million cars in 2020 (including both battery EVs and plug-in hybrids). In addition, the European EV fleet includes over 100,000 duty vehicles and 4,500 buses. EVs accounted for over 8 per cent of new registrations in the region in 2020. Germany, France, Sweden, the Netherlands and Italy accounted for the highest number of electric cars sold. While EV penetration in central European countries is still low, northern countries have recorded the highest penetration. In terms of EV sales percentage, Norway stood first at over 30 per cent.
European policymakers have set a clear path for the massive adoption of EVs. The future prospects are promising, with the possibility of Europe’s combined EV market share touching 50 per cent by 2030, as per the International Energy Agency’s Global EV Outlook 2020. To support the rise of EV sales, the number of charging points is also increasing in Europe. Public charging points more than doubled in the past four years to reach over 200,000 units in 2020. Around 90 per cent of these are normal chargers (22 kW) and the remaining 10 per cent are fast chargers, equipped with a charging power of 50 kW or more. The Netherlands, France and Germany lead the region in charging infrastructure deployment.
The EV charging process represents the concrete interface between the transport and electricity sectors, and is a crucial component in ensuring the successful development of both. The adoption of a smart charging (charging that is supervised by an external control system) process can cover a major gap in the complex ecosystem. This has been highlighted by the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) in its position paper, “Electric Vehicle Integration into Power Grids”, released in March 2021. Following extensive analysis and the pooling of transmission system operators’ (TSOs) experiences, ENTSO-E considers electric mobility to be a powerful means to decarbonise the transport sector as well as provide flexibility services to the energy system. It has called for cooperation among all involved to promote the implementation and deployment of smart charging and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology to ensure optimal vehicle-grid interaction.
Given that the e-mobility environment is extremely dynamic and EV deployment could receive a sudden boost through the Green Deal and Recovery Plan, the paper calls for actions to be taken based on its key findings without delay, to transform a challenge into a valuable resource for optimal system management. ENTSO-E intends to contribute to the debate on technical and connectivity solutions, as well as on EV charging solutions and regulations to be adopted through constructive cooperation with transport, urban planning and vehicle industry stakeholders and decision makers. It stresses the need for immediate action before mass EV deployment to avoid the need for future retrofitting of non-smart chargers.
TSOs need to operate beyond the boundaries of their traditional activities to ensure that system operations are ready for future challenges. This is also highlighted in the ENTSO-E Research, Development and Innovation Roadmap 2020-2030. The electrification of transportation requires TSOs to adapt and support wider energy system integration, defined as “one-system of integrated systems” centred around improved cross-sectoral integration. Smart charging and V2G solutions will create new markets and require new ways of modelling future generation and load profiles.
Key opportunities provided by EV charging management
Several opportunities exist to profitably exploit EV charging. Smart EV charging can support large-scale integration of renewable energy generation by flattening the power demand curve, supporting generation fleet adequacy, and reducing system costs and CO2 emissions. EVs will also enable improved system management, both in terms of ancillary services and grid congestion. Further, EV users will benefit from lower charging energy costs and more reliable services by contributing to sustainable transport.
Reshaping the power load curve and avoiding overloads on distribution grids: The EV charging process can be shifted from peak to off-peak hours to avoid the need for additional power capacity during the peaks. The positive effect of EVs can be magnified if they are charged during the day and provide energy back to the grid during the peak through V2G technology. To shift charging from the evenings to nights, both time-of-use tariffs and charging management by aggregators could be adopted.
Ancillary services for transmission grid operation: EVs can provide grid balancing services to help keep frequency close to a reference of 50 Hz. EVs can modify their charging profile and participate in reserve markets. EVs can also provide fast frequency reserves, which are becoming progressively more relevant for transmission grid operation. With V2G chargers, voltage control for the transmission grid can also be performed.
Management of grid congestion: EVs can be used as a distributed resource to reduce the risk of transmission grid congestion so as to minimise suboptimal re-despatching. EVs can modulate their charging/discharging power according to the requests of the TSO, channelled through a market service provider. This can occur either in advance (day-ahead market) or during operation (intra-day and balancing market).
Voltage control in distribution grids: Bi-directional direct current chargers can be used to perform voltage control on distribution grids, which is especially required when high shares of volatile renewable energy sources are connected. It can occur through direct control of bidirectional chargers under charging point operators or balancing service providers.
Reduction of overgeneration of renewable energy: EVs can schedule their charging process to fully match renewable generation availability, thus addressing the issues of overgeneration and curtailment of green energy expected with higher levels of RES penetration. EV charging can be matched with PV production through new tariff schemes and by facilitating the possibility of charging on office premises or in park-and-ride facilities.
Behind-the-meter services: EVs can be used as alternative domestic storage systems. They can increase self-consumption in the presence of renewable energy generation. EV batteries can also be used to perform tariff optimisation, charging during low-price periods and then providing their energy for domestic loads during high-price ones.
Taking advantage of hyper-chargers for HDVs: The daytime use of properly located hyper-chargers (150-350 kW and more) connected to high voltage grids would both avoid the risk of overload at lower voltage levels of the grid during peak hours, and enable significant use of renewable energy. Some of these opportunities provided by EV charging can be stacked, and several benefits can be obtained with the same smart charging solution.
Key recommendations and TSO positioning
To leverage the opportunities identified in the paper through the implementation of smart charging and V2G solutions, ENTSO-E recommends the following:
- Promote coordinated planning for charging infrastructure and electric grid through scenario definition, improved modelling and considering the diffusion of hyper-charger hubs on highways.
- Manage the charging process by promoting and facilitating a smart, V2G charging approach, thus smoothing peaks in the load curve.
- Deploy electro-mobility enablers, including private and public charging infrastr-ucture equipped with metering and communication capabilities, and adopt common standards to guarantee the interoperability of charging networks and data, as well as effective data management.
- Enable a new consumer-oriented ecosystem by further enhancing TSO-distribution system operator (DSO) cooperation and defining roles and responsibilities to allow electricity grid operators to play an enabling role in fostering competition.
- Update market rules and regulatory frameworks to implement grid tariff schemes to drive greater adoption of smart charging, and enable EVs to offer a high number of services and participate in flexible markets.
In this complex system integration effort, TSOs can play an important role as grid operators, system operators and market facilitators to support optimal vehicle-grid integration. TSOs should devise a multisided action plan. This involves undertaking dedicated pilots, studying potential opportunities of EV services in grid operations, enhancing cooperation with DSOs, promoting market-based demand for flexibility services, motivating EV users to adopt smart charging schemes, and monitoring the evolution of the EV sector. TSOs must undertake demonstration projects to identify technical issues, as well as studies to assess the cumulative effects of EV smart charging solutions. Several TSOs are also pursuing related pilots.
The way forward
By the end of this decade, a combination of private charging, slow public charging and fast public charging will be prevalent, with private charging contributing the highest percentage of charging needs in the long run. In Europe, EV contribution to total electricity consumption is expected to increase from 0.2 per cent in 2019 to 4-6 per cent in 2030. While this is a significant growth, percentage values of total electricity consumption still remain low and do not indicate substantial challenges in the future. That said, in case smart chargers are not properly deployed, massive EV diffusion could lead to power issues.
It is evident that coordinated planning and revised regulations are necessary to foster smart charging and V2G technologies. In this regard, TSOs have an important role to play, both directly as grid operators and as facilitators, and should take appropriate steps to study and balance the grid impact of such rapid EV uptake. The ENTSO-E position paper charts out an action plan for managing this growth beneficially for all stakeholders from the grid perspective.