'Each charging park is one of a kind'
Sören Schrader and Roman Scholdan on the integration of eMobility into the electric power grid and decentralised concepts for charging infrastructure.
What do you consider to be the current key developments when it comes to the integration of eMobility into the power grid?
Sören Schrader: The number of EVs continues to increase steadily. We currently have around 300,000 electric cars on the road in Germany; these include both pure battery EVs and plug-in hybrid EVs. The National Platform for Electromobility is expecting that this will increase to one million vehicles by 2022. In order for these electric vehicles to be supplied with the energy they require, we will need to have sufficient charging options. The charging infrastructure will therefore need to grow in accordance with this increase. In the meantime, battery capacity and charging power are also increasing, in order to achieve both long range capacity and acceptable charging times.
What are the biggest challenges for the power grid on account of eMobility and for the operators of charging parks?
Roman Scholdan: In order to guarantee the stability of the power grid, it is important that only as much power be taken out of it as can be fed in at another location. However, with eMobility, there are certain times when there is a particularly high demand for charging power, the so-called 'peak charging periods'. For example, in the evening, at around 6 pm, when people are coming home from work and everyone wants to charge their car at the same time to be ready for the next day. For our customers, who include the operators of charging parks, these peaks in demand mean high costs: the greater the charging power required, the higher the costs for grid connection and grid usage. A further major challenge from the point of view of a distribution grid operator is the fact that the power consumption follows a very random pattern and is difficult to predict.
Sören Schrader: The increase in power requirement due to EVs also presents us with challenges in general terms. The low and medium voltage grids are not set up for the additional power required and are already close to reaching their limits in some areas. One possible solution would be to expand the grid greatly. However, this plan won’t be approved by the distribution system operators, because for them the costs involved are not reasonable to the actual usage of the distribution grid. After all, full power is only actually required at a few points in time during the year.
What is the best way to deal with these challenges? What preparatory measures need to be undertaken now, for example, in order to ensure that we can fast charge a great number of EVs or electric buses at the same time in the future?
Roman Scholdan: There isn't only one solution, but rather a wide range of measures that can help us to reach a solution. These include the ability of the grid operator to regulate the capacity of the charging stations when there are charging peaks. Perhaps charging with electricity may take longer, but the option of load management would give grid operators a tool through which they could continue to secure the stability of the grid.
Sören Schrader: In our opinion, however, decentralised concepts make more sense for charging infrastructure. Charging park operators can rely on solutions that provide relief to the grid in the form of energy management systems that involve the interplay of various different components. For example, a battery storage system integrated into the charging park that, for certain periods of time, provides the required charging power or at least a portion of it. This would allow peak charging periods to be handled efficiently because it would no longer be necessary to take the entire capacity for the high demand period from the grid. Furthermore, this battery storage system could draw its electricity from local decentralised generation plants, such as photovoltaic panels/wind turbines, during times when the power requirement is not as high but a lot of electricity can be generated.
Roman Scholdan: However, what makes most sense for our customers – the operators of the charging parks – will be different in each individual case and depends on a range of different factors. For example, the huge regional variation in grid connection costs and grid usage costs of the 800+ distribution grid operators in Germany. Or the differences in feed-in behaviour of decentralised generators of electricity, regional conditions for funding eligibility and building costs, and in particular the relevant eMobility use case and the associated level of use and type of electric vehicle. Each charging park is one of a kind, depending on its size, customer base and the distribution grid it is connected to.
This is where umlaut comes in: taking into account all the relevant influencing factors, we provide charging park operators with use-case-specific recommendations for the best possible layout in economic terms of the various charging park components, taking into consideration all the technical restrictions and any particular local circumstances.
Integrated charging infrastructure to solve the challenges faced by the power grid and the operators of charging parks.
What exactly does this involve?
Sören Schrader: Over the years, we have developed an end-to-end approach through which we support operators of charging parks, from the planning stage right through to the point when their charging stations commence operations. This includes our eMobility readiness check (eRC), an assessment of the conditions at any given location in terms of construction and technical factors. Based on this, we then recommend a size of grid connection that will make economic sense, and for a suitable infrastructure – meaning type, number and power – and whether and in what dimensions a battery storage unit and a decentralised power generation plant would make financial sense. In addition to this, we also offer support through the entire roll-out process, including the selection of suitable building contractors and electricians, and we also conduct a further check before operations commence and carry out an interoperability check. Overall, our aim is to simplify this highly complex process for the charging park operators to the greatest possible extent, whilst also making the process as transparent as possible.
Roman Scholdan: With our extensive knowledge of the power grid, for example concerning the technical grid connection guidelines in around 100 different markets, we also provide consulting services to manufacturers of charging stations or automotive OEMs and to the manufacturers of components in the development of their products. We also provide assistance with the implementation of new standards and norms. In addition to this, we are in possession of a comprehensive database on technical grid properties, grid regulations, conditions for funding eligibility, and on the public charging infrastructures in around 100 different countries worldwide.
Where does umlaut's expertise in this area come from?
Sören Schrader: We have been offering support to eMobility projects for around ten years now. This has allowed us to continuously expand and extend our expertise. We also make great efforts to keep abreast of all current developments. eMobility is a very young market and it is constantly moving. This requires a high degree of agility and the will to adjust to the circumstances. Through our mix of young engineers and experts with a great deal of experience, we are best placed to stay on the ball. Our cross-sectoral skills in the areas of energy, the automotive sector and communications are also in particular demand. Today umlaut has around 200 employees working across the entire eMobility sector.