Many challenges must be overcome for the large-scale rollout of plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) to be successful, concludes a new report by Accenture.
The report, ‘Changing the game: Plug-in electric vehicle pilots,’ analyzed a range of EV trials around the world, focusing on pure electric vehicles that depend entirely on charging from the electric grid.
The report identified three key challenges: cost, control and scale. First, the business case for investing in public charging infrastructure is weak due to high costs and initial consumer preferences for home charging. Pilots reveal a risk that consumers may not use public charging spots at rates required to recover costs, which range from approximately $5,000 per charging station to $50,000 for units capable of quickly charging a car in approximately 30 minutes, the report says.
In addition, infrequent charging by consumers will limit the ability to control the impact of charging on power flows. According to the report, pilots show that EVs meet the driving requirements of typical city users, who may, therefore, not plug in their cars daily. This increases the unpredictability of charging and reduces control, according to the report. Plugging in vehicles whenever they are parked will help grid management, easing the strain on the grid.
Finally, although most electrification technologies work in isolation, there are too few electric vehicles in pilot areas to robustly test the technologies and their integration with one another. Therefore, the impact on the grid will need to continue to be closely monitored as the market develops.
“Plug-in EVs have extensive implications for business models, because they require changes in consumer behavior and can increase strain on the grid,” says Accenture's Melissa Stark. “It will be critical to improve understanding of consumer preferences and to change consumer behavior through creative incentives if utilities and service providers are to manage the impact on the grid.”
The report also proposes suggestions for overcoming these challenges, including private charging infrastructure that will include mechanisms such as premium charging to manage demand and battery-swapping services that reduce the strain on the grid.