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Power and Automotive Sectors Intertwined – Another Pitfall In Transitioning To Electric?

by Kevin Mak | Sep 09, 2021

After my visit to the 2021 British Motor Show at the Farnborough International Exhibition Centre last month, I returned to the same showground for the Fully Charged Outside event last week.  In the previous Fully Charged Show in 2019 (obviously, the 2020 show had been cancelled by the pandemic), there was growing consumer interest in leasing and purchasing electric vehicles.  This is reflected in the increasing market share of electrified powertrains in new light vehicle purchases in 2020, particularly in Europe, as can be seen in the Strategy Analytics report, Electrified Powertrains: A 2020 Update.
 
Where the British Motor Show offered a glimpse of the electric future, in advance of the combustion engine new car sales ban in 2030, Fully Charged Outside was more “preaching to the converted” with the Tesla Motors Club’s UK branch displaying member’s cars and having its own bar right in the middle of the exhibition park. 

The stages hosted discussions on topics, such as can Tesla be caught by the other manufacturers and converting classic cars to run on electric powertrains, as well as general discussions on environmentally friendly and more sustainable forms of business and transport.  However, there were other discussions titled:
- Are smart homes really where we are heading?
- This changes everything - V2G, V2H and V2X; and
- Unlocking the potential of electric car homes.

As most electric vehicle charging takes place in the home, ICE owners and newbies to EVs need to understand the importance of their future mobility needs, which will determine where and how much they will recharge their future EVs – which will be inevitable when the ban comes into force on new ICE cars.  For short range commutes, even electric bikes and riding electric buses may be the more affordable and sustainable alternatives to the existing ICE car.  

But in Europe, EV owners need to purchase their own wallbox to recharge at home – a novel experience from driving to the petrol station to refuel in five minutes and then drive home.  Then they will need to know when to charge, to ensure they have enough power to complete their forthcoming journey.  But they will also need to know smart charging, i.e. when to charge when grid demand is low to get the lowest price for electricity, usually at night.  Then there’s the possibility of using V2G (Vehicle-to-Grid) bidirectional charging, so that you can sell excess power from the EV back to the grid at peak demand, when electricity prices are high, and earn some money while the EV is parked up and not going anywhere for the day.  That way, EV owners can offset the cost premiums in their EVs by lowering their operating cost, although EVs models will soon meet cost parity with ICE anyway.  EV newbies need to be savvy in their choice of power supply and wallbox when converting to electric.  According to the UK wallbox sales portal, Rightcharge, by switching the home energy supplier to a specialist, EV-friendly supplier and tariff, the average UK driver (who drives 7,400 miles or 11,909 km a year) can save over £500 ($688) a year, not just from charging the EV but by also reducing home energy costs.  One such provider is Octopus Energy, whose executives were present in some of the discussions at the event. 

A number of today’s EV models have the capability to offer V2H (Vehicle-to-Home) to deliver power from the EV to the home, at first as an emergency response to a power cut, and V2L (Vehicle-to-Load) to deliver power to a portable electric grill or TV when taking the EV out camping or for power tools for small businesses.

With a considerable storage of energy at EV users’ disposal, this offers both a unique challenge and opportunity for the power sector, in terms of sourcing additional capacity to recharge increasing numbers of EVs (sometimes with bigger battery packs) and using these EV batteries to offset peaks and troughs in the grid.  By doing so, power providers can limit the additional investment they will need to support the expansion of home charging and public charging infrastructure.  Therefore, there is the inevitable partnership between automotive and power sectors, already occurring in V2G projects spearheaded by specialist aggregators and platform providers, such as Nuvve, as reported by Strategy Analytics in Nuvve Enables V2G Platform For Electric Vehicles.  A study by Cenex suggests a £414 ($570) cost saving if a vehicle is plugged-in on average 75 percent of the time using a 7 kW bidirectional wallbox (over a unidirectional 7 kW wallbox without V2G).  An earlier trial by Nissan and Nuvve suggested greater benefits.  However, as more EVs are adopted, with V2G usage, then the price for peak demand power could fall and the price for off-peak demand power could increase.  

V2G capability is supported by wallbox vendors, such as the leading vendor Wallbox (that was demonstrating its systems at Fully Charged Outside), through the use of vehicle connectivity and power semiconductor technologies, such as silicon carbide (SiC) power switches.  Wallbox’s Quasar system (pictured below) enables V2G bidirectional charging at 7.4 kW AC, aided by SiC technology to reduce module size and to make it more affordable to consumers.  Bidirectional chargers with higher power outputs are being tested with fleets, such as Fermata at 11 kW and Heliox at 20 kW.  

Wallbox Quasar

Then the control of when the charging process takes place and in which direction requires an intuitive HMI interface for the consumer to understand clearly, especially for a powertrain that is novel to the user more used to operating an ICE vehicle.  EDF is partnering with Nissan to offer users of the Leaf car and e-NV200 van a smartphone app to control the charging processes if using a 11 kW bidirectional wallbox.  It claims the V2G feature could save its customers £350 ($477) per wallbox per year.  Furthermore, ISO 15118 will release a standard for V2G, broadening its adoption beyond the current use of a CHAdeMO cable. 

Like at the 2021 British Motor Show (and other events), it is challenging to convince ordinary consumers in switching over to EVs, as reported by my blog, Education, Expectation and Experience – The Challenge of Converting Consumers to Electric at the British Motor Show, and the free Strategy Analytics report, Influencing Electric Vehicle (EVs) Buyers in Global Markets.  The early complaints revolved around the lack of driving range, but this has now changed to “charge anxiety.”

When asked “how many know what V2G means” and “how many intend to get V2G in the future,” many at Fully Charge Outside answered in the majority.  But while the discussion “This changes everything - V2G, V2H and V2X” offered a glimpse of the future, it did not explain to the non-converted how consumers would go about setting up a V2G system at their home and how it could negate cost premiums in their future EV purchase.  Would it be better that motor manufacturers took over the selection and installation of wallboxes, as in China?  Should the car maker give consumers the option of selecting their next energy provider?  

By educating ordinary consumers, V2G does have the potential to “change everything.”

Kevin Mak is a Principal Analyst in the Global Automotive Practice at Strategy Analytics, covering the Powertrain, Body, Chassis and Safety service.
Strategy Analytics also publishes the EV/HEV Technologies Supply & Fitment Database and Hybrid Technologies Legislation/Support database twice a year and the OEM Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Strategies report every year, including the 2020 edition, OEM Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Strategies: Tesla Technology Leads; SPACs and Electric Vans Help Start-Ups.

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