With 17,000 electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrids on Irish roads it’s clear we’re on the road to decarbonisation. Electrifying transport offers a cost-effective and practical solution to meet the Irish Government’s decarbonisation targets as set out in Climate Action and Low Carbonisation Bill. With electricity turning into a substantially low carbon fuel, Government’s goal of having more than 936,000 electric vehicles (550,00 BEV) on the streets by 2030 seems achievable.
The SEAI’s (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland) EV Roadmap publication forecasts an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 and as battery production costs drop, EVs could offer better value in terms of the 10-year cost of ownership compared to future internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
(Source: SEAI 2020)
But as the drive to decarbonisation with EVs ramps up we need to consider the impact of widespread electrical transport on the electricity network grid.
The forecasted investment cost of supporting a 20% electric vehicle uptake in Ireland is estimated to be €350m. This investment will have to be made by 2030 in order to upgrade the electricity network enabling it to accommodate the expected increase in EV uptake levels by customers and the subsequent increase in demand for fast charging facilities.
Challenges associated to fast charging – impacts on the electricity grid
Impacts on the electricity grid depend on the demand for EVs by customers and on whether certain locations will require electric grid upgrades to meet the rising demand for electric load and fast charging infrastructure. A study conducted on Europe’s EV fleet estimated that by 2050 80% of the EU’s passenger EV fleet demand will only cover 9.5% of the electric load available.
(Source: International Council on Clean Transportation, 2018)
The diagram above shows that the most vulnerable parts of the existing networks’ infrastructure lie in the distribution systems which will need to be upgraded if there is high demand for EV fast-charging infrastructure. This is particularly true if demand for fast charging coincides with other distribution loads. If charging takes place during peak periods, transmission and distribution of energy will be put to the test.
But with challenge comes opportunity! As they represent a small fraction of power demand, fast charging loads can be met with a gradual system integration and the pace at which upgrades to the grid will be needed will depend on the EV’s market share growth. The development of new technologies and smart systems can offer flexibility services, shifting loads and adjusting frequency controls to manage overloading electricity networks.
Designing a safe, affordable and resilient grid network
Among the steps we can take to help reduce the impact on the electricity grid and accommodate the potential high demand for fast charging infrastructure:
Location - locations for fast chargers should be selected based on capacity of energy availability and low installation costs
Accessibility - special care for corridor and community fast-charging system architecture should be considered an infrastructure designed to engaging customers, policymakers and stakeholders. All with a view to ensuring the design of a decarbonized, resilient and affordable grid network.
Smart systems - smart charging will allow vehicles and chargers to operate in real-time, only charging when energy is needed and up to the required level. Smart systems will also ensure no energy is wasted and no unnecessary demand is placed on the grid.
Balancing demand - shifting electrical load demand during non-peak hours can mean cost savings for customers as well as maintaining a manageable level of demand on the electricity grid.
Empowering customers – customer behaviour currently suggests a perception of expense and inaccessibility when it comes to EV charger infrastructure. Educating and empowering customers to understand their energy usage will not only lead to a shift in these perceptions but will also prevent unnecessary burden on the grid.
Electrifying transport is a practical solution to decarbonisation. It requires investment and thought leadership to present customers with attractive and accessible products to support their green energy journeys. Drivers in Ireland are increasingly ready to change gears and push the accelerator on switching to EVs. They just need a green light.
For more information on EV charger instation as well as out EV charging credit offers visit out SSE Airtricity’s Electric Vehicle hub here.
-  https://www.seai.ie/technologies/electric-vehicles/
-  https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/984d2-climate-action-and-low-carbon-development-amendment-bill-2020/
-  Percentage reduction forecast based on 2011 emissions for passenger fleet car
-  Source: ESB Networks Preparing for electric Vehicles on the Irish Distribution System
-  Source: https://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/transport/electric-vehicles/electric-vehicles-and-energy