- The amount of electricity is not the problem
- Traffic turnaround only possible with digitization of the power grids
“We do not know about when or where we will soon need a lot of electricity for e-mobility. We only know that we need a lot of electricity “. These concerns commented on the managing director of a large-city electricity supplier who does not want to be called his real name, opposite the Wirtschaftswoche. With this assessment he should not stand by itself. Because our mobility is always electrical, and electric cars are just a part of it. In addition, in the future there will probably be more and more electric buses, e-bikes, as well as autonomous carsharing cars or tricycles that deliver parcels and goods, as futurologists explained at a congress in Karlsruhe.
What made the head of the electricity supplier nervous at this congress: nobody had thought about where the additional demand for electricity for all these vehicles should come from, and above all how it should get to exactly where it is needed. The manager feels left alone: “If I knew where in my city I would best turn 50 in ten years.000 e-cars, the necessary network optimization would be manageable and not very expensive,” said the power manager. On average, “something is dug up somewhere every five years” anyway, and simply laying a thicker cable as a precaution hardly causes any additional costs.
But the municipal utility manager literally has no plan. Because city planners ignored the issue. Because politicians avoided taking decisive steps. Because administrations avoided binding guidelines. This is how the business magazine describes the problem. It knows that the power grid is too weak in some places for optimal supply of a larger mass electric cars and must have billions of investments. In addition to what the conversion of the grids for the energy transition will cost. We are talking about 40 billion euros here alone.
The amount of electricity is not the problem
However, experts have little doubt that the amount of electricity generated in Germany will be sufficient for a fully electrified fleet of cars. Florian Samweber from the Research Center for Energy Economics (FFE), for example, calculated that 45 million electric cars would consume a total of 105 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity per year, around 15 percent of the amount produced today. Under this additional demand, “the power supply would certainly not collapse,” Samweber told WirtschaftsWoche, whose view is shared by many other electricity experts.
However, Samweber is faced with the same problem as the municipal utility manager: What happens “if everyone who comes home at 7 p.m.” hangs their electric car on the wall box for charging? That won’t work, says Samweber. The solution would be digital and smart networks that could charge the mass of electric cars in households using intelligent electricity meters, as well as new transformers and voltage regulators. But the planning for this has so far been neglected.
Traffic turnaround only possible with digitization of the power grids
In Germany there is a real blockade, writes WirtschaftsWoche. This even goes so far that the federal government is even slowing down the expansion of the charging infrastructure at EU level. In Brussels, Germany is campaigning against better pre-wiring of residential buildings, which should actually make it easier to install charging stations in the underground car parks of these houses.
45 million electric cars on the power grid are not a problem, says the transport policy spokesman for the SPD and former master electrician for the Dusseldorf public utility company, Andreas Rimkus. But “they will become one if we just carry on as we have been.”
Andreas Breuer, the head of new technologies at the energy supplier Innogy, who is researching the intelligent power grid in a pilot project in Wertachau near Augsburg, agrees with him. The project in Wertachau and another one in the Eifel have shown that instead of new transformers and expensive earthworks for new cables, relatively small investments in IT are usually sufficient to get the network ready for electromobility. The costs for the network expansion could thus be kept within a tolerable range, according to Breuer, who concludes: “The traffic turnaround stands and falls with the digitization of the power grids.”
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