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E-mobility: green power – vital for the energy transformation

Of all the factors that will drive the shift towards renewables, transportation is one of the most important. If we can cut energy consumption in this area and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels at the same time, the benefits will be huge. This involves substituting petrol and diesel with electricity – e-mobility is the key. 

The average mid-range car uses about seven litres of fuel per 100 kilometres. That’s the equivalent of 70 kilowatt hours of electricity. By comparison, an electric car only needs about 10-15 kWh to travel the same distance; in fuel terms, this would only be around 1-1.5 litres. The main reason for this is the significantly higher efficiency level. Powering vehicles with electricity is obviously the way to go, and the number of new registrations is rising all the time (even though they still only account for a very small proportion of the vehicles on the roads). 

Smart grids create new opportunities

E-mobility represents a challenge for the electricity sector in many different ways. Above all, there is a need for investment in electricity networks. If we reach a point where all vehicles in Austria run on electricity, the country will need to increase electricity production by 16%. But the challenge does not lie in generating this additional electricity; it’s a question of finding a reasonably quick way to recharge a large number of vehicles. This will require a network of high-performance charging points. At the same time, though, investments in smart network management will also be necessary. The electricity system needs to be constantly balanced to ensure stable supplies, with identical levels of production and consumption, because power cannot be stored in the grid. 

© Fotolia/Tom Hanisch

E-vehicle charging requires large amounts of electricity, which in turn can put the system under substantial pressure. This is where digitalisation of the electricity network and metering, with smart grids and smart meters, comes into play. They allow for e-vehicle charging attuned to the requirements of the grid, for example automated recharging at night time, when electricity consumption is generally low. Another advantage is that electricity prices are lower at this time of day, and the benefit can be passed on to customers by means of flexible tariffs. 

Faster recharging at public charging points

When an e-vehicle is recharged, the power output is several times higher than the 3-5 kW usually assumed for household connections. Until now, households have typically consumed electricity in short bursts at different times, for activities such as cooking and washing. But because e-vehicle recharging takes several hours, the power grid needs to satisfy substantial and simultaneous demand for capacity, which significantly increases the burden on distribution networks. Without additional steps, the low-voltage networks will quickly be overwhelmed. 

Although drivers can recharge their cars slowly overnight at home, public charging points often need to get the job done much more quickly during the day. This is why electricity prices will include a capacity component in future – if a car needs to be recharged more quickly, the cost will be higher.