Electromobility despite energy crisis

Intelligent charging as a gamechanger

12. Januar 2023, 9:49 Uhr | Irina Hübner
Smartes Laden macht die Elektromobilität auch in Zukunft attraktiv.

Lack of charging infrastructure, declining purchase premiums, high purchase prices for e-cars - electromobility faces numerous challenges. But thanks to smart charging, electric cars can still be attractive. An overview of the status quo in the industry.

A comprehensive and user-friendly charging infrastructure is a basic prerequisite for successful electromobility. There are currently around 70,000 charging points in Germany (as of October 1, 2022), which is around 17,000 more than a year earlier. The sluggish expansion is now being compounded by another damper: the reduced premium for electric cars. The government's current goal of putting 15 million electric cars on Germany's roads by 2030 hardly seems achievable. The Swedish provider of charging solutions CTEK summarizes the latest developments as well as challenges around electric mobility and also shows how the electric car can remain an economic winner even in times of rising energy prices.

1. Smart charging technology and dynamic electricity tariffs to counter rising electricity prices

In Germany, fixed-price electricity contracts have been the standard so far. However, consumers can benefit from a so-called dynamic electricity tariff or residual electricity tariff. Instead of a fixed amount for each kilowatt hour consumed, with a dynamic electricity tariff the supplier passes on to the electricity customer fluctuations in the price of electricity over time on the stock exchange. The electricity provider must give the customer a transparent overview of the times of day when electricity is particularly cheap. For example, the customer can shift activities that require a lot of electricity, such as charging an electric car, to periods when electricity is cheaper.

With an intelligent charging solution such as a smart wallbox, consumers can control the charging process so that it takes place between 00:00 and 05:00. In other words, precisely during the hours when the price tends to be low. Integrated load management can also prevent peak loads. This is important, for example, for charging in residential complexes or in the employee parking lot, as the available electricity can then be distributed among several vehicles, thus preventing overloading of the power connection. With these options, the electric car remains the more cost-effective means of transportation, compared to a combustion engine.

2. Challenges remain with regard to payment systems and user-friendliness

Anyone currently driving an electric car in Germany is best off using multiple apps, charging cards or RFDI chips to get to the nearest charging station. In order to lower the payment inhibition threshold among consumers, the development of customer-friendly standards is of high importance.

Providers of payment solutions are faced with the task of establishing a uniform payment system throughout Germany. User-friendliness is the keyword here. The German government wants to agree on a uniform system by 2023, especially for e-trucks. If this does not succeed, the federal government wants to examine whether a legal amendment is necessary. In addition to the affordability of electricity, the new master plan also focuses on the user-friendliness of the entire charging process.

According to CTEK's latest electromobility study, 61 percent of respondents say they feel anxiety around charging modalities: Does the charging station even work? What are the payment options? The government is still aiming to regulate authentication, payment system and roaming in the interests of the consumer.

According to a decision by the German government, payment by EC or credit card is to become the legally required standard by July 1, 2023 at the latest. Since the new charging station ordinance does not provide for the retrofitting of charging stations that go into operation before July 1, 2023, charging stations without card readers and the possibility of data exchange will still be in use after this date. So for the next few years, Germany will continue to have a patchwork of different charging networks. It will be exciting to see whether cashless payment can be implemented across the board.

3. Long delivery times and a lack of purchase incentives slow down electromobility

The purchase costs of electric vehicles are a major obstacle for many potential buyers. According to CTEK's study, 31 percent of drivers who have not yet owned an electric or hybrid vehicle made their purchase dependent on government subsidies. However, owners of an electric car also state that the reason for their purchase was a purchase premium. With the complete discontinuation of subsidies for plug-in hybrids and the future reduction in purchase premiums for all-electric vehicles, incentives that have been effective to date are disappearing.

For many people interested in buying a fully electric or plug-in vehicle, the relatively high purchase costs will therefore continue to be an obstacle in the coming year. So far, there are few signs that purchase prices will fall in the near future.

The delivery times also deter many potential buyers: due to the shortage of semiconductors, the effects of the Ukraine war and the pandemic, delivery times are currently still between three and 13 months. One thing is certain: the cancelled or reduced subsidies have come at an inopportune time. For many, the purchase of an electric car is and remains associated with a number of hurdles. The associated decline in new car registrations may contribute to a further slowdown in the expansion of electromobility in Germany in the short term. A sharp rise in new registrations in connection with the current energy crisis is not expected in the coming year.

4. Vehicle to Grid: Grid stabilization with e-cars

Electricity grid operators are currently faced with the task of ensuring grid stability. In these times, electromobility represents a further burden for the power grid. As a consequence, Switzerland is considering throttling the speed from 120 to 100 kilometers per hour for e-cars, but a driving ban is also an issue.

However, the current situation can also be seen as an opportunity to push smart charging more and store green energy efficiently. Electric cars, in conjunction with bidirectional charging, can not only draw energy from the grid, but also feed it back in. So this smart-charging feature can help stabilize the power grid when generation fluctuates. For the motorist, this doesn't change much. In the future, his vehicle will be able to supply electricity during peak load periods and thus cushion bottlenecks in households and businesses.

Industry is already very far along in the development of this technology, and initial standards such as ISO-15118-20 have already been defined. ISO standard 15118 defines the basics of charging communication for the CCS (Combined Charging System) charging system that is predominant in Europe and the USA. The first step has been taken with standardization, but manufacturers, suppliers, and infrastructure and power grid operators face the challenge of implementing the bidirectional charging function, among other things, and integrating it into their products.

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