Are you charging your EV with clean or dirty energy?
It feels like the long tailpipe argument never goes away. Simply put, full life-cycle emissions of electric vehicles (EVs) are no different to that of a conventional vehicle. But, this is no longer the case. Fresh research tells us that 75 percent of people in the US live in places where driving on electricity is cleaner than a 50 MPG gasoline car.
In the manufacturing stage, EVs are more carbon intensive when taking into account parts production and transportation. According to the UCS, manufacturing a mid-sized EV with an 84-mile range results in about 15 percent more emissions than producing an equivalent gasoline vehicle, this is mainly because of the raw materials and energy required for the Lithium-ion battery. However, when you include full lifecycle emissions, charging and driving, EVs come out on top.
EVs produce fewer emissions now because the electric grid is getting cleaner.
How clean the electricity is, depends on the geographical location. For example, In the Midwest, electricity generation remains heavily reliant on Coal and Natural Gas, whereas, in the far West, larger-scale renewable infrastructure is in place to serve more of the electricity demand.
In the future, innovation will help decarbonize the whole EV lifecycle process. First in manufacturing. Environmentally friendly materials particularly with regards to battery compounds. And, second EV charging. Building out renewable infrastructure will help clean up the electricity grid and in turn the charging process.
Currently, in the US, around 15 percent of electricity is produced by renewables, as the de-carbonization process gathers pace, it will be possible for EV charging to become carbon neutral. And, as you will see later in this article, strategic partnerships are being formed to make this possible.
However, as we talk about the future of charging, there are ways to reduce the carbon footprint. First, the discussion will focus on individual EV owners, and second, fleet owners.
How EV drivers can charge with cleaner electricity
Okay, you may already have a head start living in California. However, no matter your location, adopting specific practices will help maximize clean electricity usage.
The first is a change in charging habits. Utilities are available that purely offer renewable energy as an electricity source. However, this is usually a more expensive option. Open to all, is the time of day in which you charge. The US Energy Information Agency (EIA) records daily electricity demand, which tells you at what time of the day is electricity most in use. Below is the national average.
US peak times of electricity production occur during the hours of 7-9am and 5-7pm pacific time. During these peak times, carbon-intensive fuels such as coal and natural gas will be required to meet peak demand. As a result, charging your EV during peak times will be the most carbon-intensive, and most costly. In contrast, during off-peak hours, not only will you benefit from lower electricity prices, clean sources such as wind, hydro, and nuclear will be in service to meet electricity demand. Therefore, EV charging during off-peak hours will be 1) cheaper, and 2) cleaner.
Therefore, off-peak charging is a perfect solution for an individual EV owner.
However, strategic collaborations with renewable energy and EV charging providers will yield carbon neutral solutions. In the UK, ChargeMaster, the largest operator of public EV charging infrastructure, with 5,600 charging stations partnered with OVO Energy, an independent provider of renewable energy, to offer 100% clean EV charging to its customers from 1st August 2017. Similarly, in a recent press release, EV Box and IBC Solar are joining forces to deploy integrated solar energy and EV charging point solutions across Europe.
A smarter option for fleets
Many fleet managers have already recognized the economic, environmental, and reputational benefits of transitioning their fleets to EVs. However, there is a severe risk to localities of electricity demand overload with multiple EV charging, especially during peak hours.
Smart charging allows you to manage multiple charging stations in a cost and energy efficient manner. By opening up a line of communication with the electricity grid, it creates a flexible load. These flexible loads allow you to draw power at changing times, without any compromise to the quality of the electricity delivered.
FleetCarma SmartCharge Manager
FleetCarma offers an innovative smart charging solution for all of your fleet’s needs. The SmartCharge Manager helps manage your EV charging load efficiently. By providing fluid access to vehicle-side-data, administrators can understand the impact of allowing or curtailing vehicle charging at any given time, based on real-time data such as battery state-of-charge. Real-time data enables better decisions and efficient deployment of demand response programs while ensuring vehicles receive the charge they require.
Also, as battery technology advances, energy storage could become a viable option to load management. Storage could make renewable electricity available whenever required and could help baseload resources supply fluctuating demand.
To conclude, I think it’s time to put to bed the long-tailpipe argument. Over the last ten years, utility-scale renewable power has grown to over 15 percent of electricity generation in the US, and this trend is likely to continue. As a result, the electricity grid is getting cleaner, and already over 75 percent of people in the US, live in places where EVs are cleaner than gasoline vehicles.
Strategic partnerships to bring carbon-neutral EV charging are on the horizon. But, in the meantime, consumers can and should change their charging to off-peak hours to ensure the cleanest charging profile possible.
Fleet managers should continue to recognize the benefits of an EV fleet. Smart charging solutions utilize data and analytics to give you complete control of your fleet, charging in the most cost and energy efficient way. New technologies such as energy storage and V2G will bring about smarting charging 2.0, providing further assistance with electricity load management.