Electric vehicles can save France, Italy, Spain, and the UK between €500m and €1.3bn each a year as they switch to renewable energy, a new study has found. Smart charging – or charging electric cars at the best time of day for the grid – will help avoid demand peaks and provide extra storage when there is renewable electricity oversupply. This will reduce the need to build additional grid storage and power plants, according to researchers Element Energy, which analysed electric vehicle uptake up to 2040.
But to take advantage, the EU and governments must ensure all new e-charging infrastructure is capable of smart charging, said Transport & Environment (T&E), which commissioned the research along with energy companies Enel and Iberdrola and carmaker Renault. If electric vehicles were charged at the peak time of day for electricity use, this could increase the need for new (fossil) generation plants. Smart charging would ensure that vehicles be charged overnight and during other troughs in demand, meaning less additional generation would be required.
Julia Poliscanova, clean vehicles and e-mobility manager at T&E, said: “EVs will not crash our power grids as some misleadingly report. On the contrary, ‘batteries on wheels’ can spare Europe’s grids from costly upgrades and allow more renewables to come online faster. All that’s needed is to charge them at the right time of the day, for example during daytime in sunny countries.”
Reusing EV batteries as storage will further save businesses 42% compared to the price of installing new batteries, the study finds. One of the most promising uses for repurposed batteries is to avoid peaks in demand from heavy users such as depots charging electric bus fleets at night.
However, the study cautions that Europe currently doesn’t have enough capacity to recycle the batteries of EVs now on its roads. Most of Europe’s recycling facilities handle lead acid batteries but not lithium-ion, which are used in electric cars. T&E said the EU’s new batteries directive, expected later this year, must set ambitious targets for lithium-ion battery recycling which will provide investment certainty for the recycling industry.
Julia Poliscanova concluded: “Recycling is not only a key pillar of sustainable battery production, it also has huge potential to keep critical metals such as cobalt and lithium in Europe, creating new green industries and jobs along the way. Today the EU is not ready to capture these valuable materials. The next Commission should present a green industrial strategy with electromobility and batteries at its core.”