Experts see a future where electric vehicles provide an array of grid services, from demand response to soaking up excess renewable generation.
Right now there are more than 250 million vehicles registered in the United States, and less than 1 million of those are electric. It’s a drop in the bucket — so far, anyway — and to date, there has been modest impact on the electric grid.
But the consensus is that mass market adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) is only a few years away, and will bring with it fundamental shifts in how the electric grid is utilized. Utilities see few problems on the generation side, but delivering that energy will require grid upgrades and creates an opportunity to integrate the vehicles in a way that enhances renewables usage and achieves a more nimble and stable grid.
“The technical hurdles have largely been overcome, and now it is more a matter of the business case,” John Gartner, director of Navigant’s energy practice, told Utility Dive.
“Utilities have really awoken to this opportunity of combining EVs with services to enhance grid operations,” Gartner said.
Long time coming
Electric vehicles have long been touted as a smarter, cleaner approach to transportation, but the internal combustion engine has dominated the market for more than 100 years. Despite previous false starts, however, transportation analysts say falling battery costs and advancements in technology are poised to change that equation.
According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, EVs will represent 28% of global light-duty vehicle sales sometime shortly after 2025, a faster growth pace than the firm previously expected. And last year, the Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned utilities, projected 7 million of the zero-emissions vehicles will be on U.S. roads by 2025.
A lack of options in the electric vehicle market, along with a dearth of charging infrastructure, has so-far held back adoption of electric transportation, Jonathan Levy, vice president for strategic initiatives at EV charging company EVgo, told Utility Dive.