The transformation of the energy sector in the next decade will be much greater than in previous years, where the electrification of transport will be one of the key factors in the process of decarbonization, solving the problem of climate change and reaching international goals regarding the reduction of CO2 emissions.
Parallel to the increase in the number of electric vehicles, an increasing number of distributed generators using renewable energy sources are being installed in distribution networks, and the image of the former electrical distribution system is changing drastically.
At the same time, the integration of electric vehicles into the system becomes one of the biggest challenges, while software solutions and new technologies play a major role in finding solutions, monitoring and managing vehicle’s electricity consumption.
If you are one of those who are interested in the future of electromobility and the role of software engineering in the new energy order, then the following lines will illuminate some of the key challenges and directions for the development of new solutions. Marko Obrenić, Power Architect and Dragana Radojčić, Software Architect, at the company Schneider Electric Hub (SE) will help us to better understand all this.
Expansion of electric vehicles
In order to better understand the impact of electric vehicles on the electrical distribution system, let's first take a brief look at the growth rate of their popularity.
According to the data shared with us by SE, the number of electric vehicles sold in 2021 was twice as high compared to the previous year, reaching a figure of as many as 6.6 million units sold. Just ten years ago, the total number of electric vehicles sold worldwide was 120 thousand. It is estimated that there are currently around 16.5 million electric vehicles worldwide, which is three times more than the number from 2018. Sales of electric vehicles continued to grow strongly in the first quarter of 2022 with 2 million units sold, confirming the progressive trend from the previous period.
There are many factors that have influenced the increase in the number of electric vehicles. On the one hand, there are the subsidies and purchase incentives implemented by countries as part of the initiative to reduce the use of fossil fuels, and on the other hand, the progress of technology: increasing the number of available models of electric vehicles, reducing the selling price and improving the characteristics of the new models, which bring them closer to classic vehicles with SUS engine. The number of different models of electric vehicles available in 2021 is about 450, which is five times the number from 2015.
Challenges of integrating electric vehicles into the power grid
With the growth of popularity, electric vehicles are becoming more and more interesting not only to drivers but also to operators of the electric distribution system, who face problems with their integration into the system. This is where the biggest challenges come.
As Marko from SE explains to us, electric vehicle chargers and charging stations represent new consumers for distribution companies, whose impact on the network is no longer negligible with the increasing number of active vehicles.
When taking into account the projections that the number of electric vehicles will reach 245 million by 2030 and that the average capacity of the battery installed in the vehicle is about 50 kWh, it can be estimated that the total capacity of all-electric vehicles by 2030 will be 12.5 TWh, and the required energy for charging them is about 1000 TWh, according to our interlocutor. This means that the consumption of electric vehicles will be from 2% to 6% of the total energy produced worldwide!
How to overcome this?
"If the charging time of electric vehicles is not controlled but adapted only to the demands of consumers, numerous problems can arise in the network" - Marko points out.
"At times of peak consumption, additional consumption by the charger can lead to serious outages and problems in network management. A one-way approach to charging, where vehicles are only consumers, without the ability to regulate their charging, is possible only in the stages of small integration of electric vehicles. A better approach is the so-called Vehicle-Grid-Integration (VGI) technology, which includes two-way charging access and two subcategories: Vehicle-To-Grid (V2G) and Grid-To-Vehicle (G2V)."
Smart charging, our interlocutor explains, means charging in periods when the network load is low or there is excess energy produced by distributed energy resources (solar panels and wind farms), whose production is conditioned by weather conditions and also very uncertain, in terms of planning.
"In an advanced scenario, apart from charging, electric vehicle batteries can also be seen as energy storage and with adequate fees, this energy can be used in moments when there is a lack of energy in the system."
The vehicle's integration with the network is illustrated in the image below:
What is necessary for integration and consumption management?
In order to realize the integration between electric vehicles and the electrical distribution system, apart from technical possibilities (the vehicle's battery must be designed for charging and discharging with variable power), it is necessary to enable a set of data that will be the input for timely analysis and planning.
Our interlocutor Dragana explains how to ensure this monitoring and management of the vehicle's electricity consumption.
"In that process, it is necessary to look at the current and future state of the electrical distribution system, which implies an insight into system measurements, assessment of load, voltage and other quantities in the system as well as their forecast, based on which one can conclude about upcoming problems."
"Monitoring the state of the system is done with software tools that represent implemented sophisticated algorithms for solving current and upcoming problems in the network", emphasizes Dragana.
The results of those calculations, she says, represent the actions that should be taken in order to prevent problems in the network. Given that electric vehicles have the ability to drive, the aforementioned actions may include changing the consumption of electric vehicles at appropriate intervals.
In addition to software tools, Dragana further explains, for load forecasting and determination of management actions for vehicle management, it is necessary to provide a communication infrastructure between the management software and the vehicle. This is achieved by various data transmission technologies, which include communication standards, the most popular of which are IEEE 2030.5 and OpenADR.
"These are protocols that have defined interfaces for external system communication with the electric charger controller or with the electric vehicle chargers themselves. For their implementation, in addition to the hardware, a software infrastructure is also necessary, which represents an integration component between the control algorithms and the vehicles themselves" - concludes Dragana.
If this topic from modern power engineering and software engineering intrigued you and you want to hear and learn more about it, Marko and Dragana invite you to join them at the POWERIT conference on September 20 and 21, organized by SE. Through the lecture "The second steering wheel for driving electric vehicles", the two will present the future of electromobility in an interesting way and how the application of software solutions helps to create the best solution for all participants - from customers to system operators, while changing the planet for the better.
Participation in this conference and lecture is free, with prior registration. All information about the agenda and lectures can be found at the link: https://events.hubilo.com/PowerIT2022/register
If you want to get to know the Schneider Electric company and the projects they are working on, take a look at their profile on the Joberty platform.