Our CPO and energy enthusiast Nick Hubbers shares his vision about EV future and its contribution to a zero-cost and zero-emission future
There is no longer any debate about it: the future of mobility is zero-emission. The real question is not if but when and how we reach this clean, green destination.
Transport is a central character in the narrative of a zero-emission future. Shockingly, over the past three decades, it's the only sector in Europe that has seen a whopping 33.5% increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Passenger cars are the primary culprit, contributing to 61% of the total CO2 emissions from EU road transport. In the face of such realities, sustainable passenger mobility has never been more crucial.
The dominant fuel for European road transport in 2019 was diesel (67%), followed by petrol (25%). However, the winds of change have started to blow, powering a remarkable shift in the automotive landscape. According to EV-Volumes, a British market research company focused on tracking EV readiness worldwide, 23% of all newly registered passenger vehicles in Europe in 2022 were electric - a significant leap from just 10.7% in 2020.
Undoubtedly, we're living in the electric car age, with manufacturers proudly marketing their vehicles as zero-emission. Walk into any showroom, and you'll be greeted by gleaming energy labels declaring a carbon footprint of zero grams per kilometre. But as we drive towards a zero-emission future, it's worth pausing to consider: are electric vehicles truly as green as they claim?
The answer isn't straightforward. It requires us to look beyond the plug and delve into the realm of electricity generation. After all, the electricity that charges your EV isn't static - it's a complex blend of various sources, from renewables like wind and solar to coal, gas, and nuclear power, and it definitely varies depending on which country you charge your car.
Think of our electrical grid as a grand symphony, playing the 50Hz tune, with grid operators acting as conductors, orchestrating a delicate balance between supply and demand. When you flip a light switch, a power plant somewhere has to increase its output to ensure your bulb glows.
Electricity is a dynamic, instantaneous commodity that cannot be efficiently stored in large quantities. Thus it is consumed as it is produced. Consequently, the emissions of charging an electric car depend largely on the 'electricity mix' - the specific combination of energy sources used to generate electricity at the time of charging.
Let's take a look at the Netherlands, where the average emissions per kilometre are approximately 110 CO2 equivalents. This figure is relatively high compared to other countries and only slightly better than modern combustion engines, which release about 130 grams of CO2 equivalents per kilometre. However, by optimising the charging time of electric vehicles, we can dramatically reduce their carbon footprint.
According to Solar 365 and CBS, 35% of homeowners in the Netherlands have solar panels and wind power meets 19% of the electricity demand. While this increase in renewable energy is certainly welcome, it doesn't come without its own set of challenges. Similar to a musical instrument playing off-key in a concert, renewable energy generation can experience fluctuations, with surplus production during times of low demand and insufficient production during peak hours. This adds a layer of complexity to our energy symphony.
During high renewable energy production periods, grid operators often face an excess of energy. The challenge lies in effectively managing this surplus in real-time, as electricity cannot be easily stored. Renewable energy meeting the entire demand is becoming increasingly frequent, adding a fascinating dimension to our energy symphony. To highlight this, we can look at the negative pricing trend in wholesale electricity markets.
Power traders who cannot reduce their power production often sell their electricity on wholesale markets at negative prices to avoid penalties. In other words, they essentially pay others to use their electricity.
Here is the trend over recent years, showing hours with negative prices and the negative value:
To put these figures into perspective, let's take the Whit Sunday holiday as an example. On this day, the wholesale market prices in the Netherlands dropped to an extraordinary low of -400 Euro per MWh (or -40ct/kWh). If you charged your EV with a 40 kWh battery between 11 am and 3 pm on that day, you wouldn't just be charging it for free; you would essentially be getting paid 6 euros.
This remarkable situation underscores the extraordinary potential of renewable energy and EVs. Not only can EV charging be sustainable, but also, under the right conditions, it can be free or even a source of income for EV owners. This kind of integration between energy markets and EVs represents a significant stride towards a sustainable and economically beneficial future for mobility.
Imagine a world where EV charging is not just sustainable but cost-free. How can this be achieved? By leveraging periods of low electricity prices, we have the potential to save hundreds of euros annually. Moreover, this approach enables us to fully leverage renewable energy sources, ensuring our EVs truly achieve a 'zero-emission' status.
Disruptive energy suppliers such as Frank Energy and NextEnergy are already paving this way by offering consumers access to wholesale market prices. With apps displaying hourly price changes, consumers can optimise their electricity usage to take advantage of low prices.
Now let's examine the role of electric vehicles in this context. A car, usually parked for a considerable portion of the day, can be seen as a substantial battery that can absorb the surplus renewable energy during times of abundance and potentially feed it back into the grid during periods of high demand.
At Jedlix, we are also committed to bringing this vision to life. With the mission to enable zero-emission charging for millions of electric cars across all continents, our technology allows EV drivers to set their charging preferences, and then based on these plus the information from the grid, we automatically charge their cars when electricity rates are the lowest. This kind of smart charging turns tens of thousands of parked EVs into a virtual power plant, balancing the grid and providing a market for surplus renewable energy while generating financial rewards for EV drivers.
The prospects of this revolution are exciting. As of 2022, there are 8 million electric cars on the road in Europe. By 2030, we expect an additional 70 million EVs to join them. This means we are only at 10% of what we can expect by 2030! This massive adoption of EVs presents an incredible opportunity to promote renewable energy and manage the inherent fluctuations of wind and solar power.
EVs, when managed correctly, can indeed offer a zero-emission future. We invite you to join us on this journey. Let's drive towards a future where charging cars is sustainable and free of charge. Together, let's embrace the abundance of renewable energy and orchestrate a symphony of sustainability for the future of mobility.