POLITICAL INITIATIVES TO BOOST A SUSTAINABLE CAR INFRASTRUCTURE
Political and strategic levers are in place on various levels to drive the development of electric vehicle technology and charging infrastructure. Additional initiatives are however needed to enhance this development.
EVs combine many infrastructure market characteristics in terms of economies of scale, network effects, high investment costs and low marginal costs. Third-party costs from the current petrol-dominated vehicle fleet, including climate influences and health effects, also make a good case for political intervention.
An interesting example can be found in Oslo and other major Scandinavian cities, where electric vehicles are offered free access to bus and taxi lanes. Several countries, including Poland and Germany, offer subsidies and tax incentives for EV buyers.
Some European countries are planning to ban sales of new fossil fuel-powered vehicles, including vans. In the UK, the initiative is part of a £3 billion strategy that will urge local governments to retrofit buses, alter roads and even tweak traffic-light patterns in order to reduce emissions and improve efficiency. This ban is scheduled to take effect in 2040 in the UK, while the Netherlands aims to achieve this goal by 2030.
CHARGING INFRASTRUCTURE: QUANTITY AND QUALITY
One of the primary bottlenecks that currently supress electric vehicle adoption rates is recharging availability. This is a question of both charging point quantity and quality. Even if charging points are available along a pre-planned route, charging needs to be sufficiently fast. At a standard charging station, a single recharge may take up to eight hours.
In other words, new approaches will be needed to alleviate fuel range anxiety as well as concerns about congested or low-capacity charging points.
Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) offer one form of solution by including a combustion engine, meaning that they can complete most journeys without recharging the vehicle. However, this will not solve the problem for Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), which need to be charged much more frequently and urgently.
In time, we should be able to match the number of EVs with a suitable number of sufficiently high-quality charging points, but we still have a long way to go. Focus should be on balancing the right number of chargers in the right places, with the appropriate power requirements.
PROTECTING EXISTING NETWORKS
Reoccurring power failures and blown house fuses are examples of other aspects that would clearly lessen the desirability of electric vehicles. Decades and considerable sums have been spent in developing our current power infrastructure. It must therefore be utilised with great care, even when the goal is adapting to sustainable technology.
When the concentration of EVs increases in certain areas, so will power demand – to previously unseen levels. Load management will therefore be crucial for managing frequent peaks in demand.
One interesting development that may be of future importance is vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology, meaning that electric vehicles can be plugged in and used to provide local power network balancing. In return, EV owners are rewarded for providing this service, while automated control technology ensures that EV batteries are not discharged excessively.
This article is a brief summary of findings from the Sweco Urban Insight report “E-magine a journey through Europe – energy infrastructure for sustainable mobility.” This report puts electric vehicles and European charging infrastructure in the spotlight through a case study. It also looks to the future and considers what will be needed to meet expectations and demand from increasing electric vehicle adoption.