DSO: Adoption of electric vehicles not stuck behind the grid

Electric vehicle.
Electric vehicle. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Distribution system operator Elektrilevi said that grid capacity is not standing in the way of EV infrastructure in Estonia. Surveys also suggest that the behavior of EV owners helps spread out network load.

"Our assessment today is that the network will not become the bottleneck in EV adoption for some time. Elektrilevi invests €100 million in the grid annually, meaning that grid capacity is always two steps ahead of the number of EVs in the country," Elektrilevi board member Rasmus Armas told ERR.

While installing EV chargers should not pose a problem in the case of private residences, apartment buildings sporting more modest installed capacity and companies that use a lot of vehicles might find it a little more tricky, Armas admitted.

"As concerns home charging, we need to look at private residences and apartment buildings separately. Private homes that usually have 25 A main circuit breakers should have no problem charging an electric vehicle. Home charging at 3x16 amperes or 11 kilowatts can add 88 kWh to an EV battery overnight, which is good for some 400 kilometers of range," Armas, who works as head of asset management at the DSO, said.

Whereas the homeowner does not need to purchase any additional grid capacity, he added.

Provided EV owners charge their vehicles at night and based on these parameters, 50 percent of the residents of a typical area of private homes could buy EVs. But because people do not need to charge their EVs every night, the grid can facilitate more electric vehicles, Armas said.

Differences greater in the case of apartment buildings

In the case of apartment buildings this depends on whether they rely on district heating and gas, and therefore sport more modest electrical systems, or whether the buildings rely more on electricity.

"Charging capacity can be created in apartment buildings without the need for additional grid capacity because the difference between evening and night consumption is manyfold also in their case. This makes it possible to install and use EV chargers in apartment buildings, while grid capacity would be spent if 25 percent of residents charged their EVs nightly."

But because not all EVs need to be charged until the battery is full every single night, the number of vehicles that can realistically be used is greater. "Smart solutions for optimal management of grid load to facilitate wider use of EVs exist today," he said.

The same logic applies to office buildings and other business premises, with throughput issues usually smaller in their case.

"However, things depend on specific use cases, and a fleet of electric cars or buses that are constantly in use could quickly exhaust existing grid capacity," Armas admitted.

Report: EVs to deliver a consumption hike, while it won't be critical

Estonia's transmission system operator Elering's 2022 power supply security report lists the electrification of the transport sector among the three main factors affecting power consumption, next to renovation of buildings and growth of dispersed generation.

While over 10 percent of all vehicles sold in ten European countries were fully electric in the first half-year of 2022 and 19 percent of all vehicles sold in Europe were either fully electric or plug-in hybrids in 2021, the corresponding figures were 3 and 5 percent in Estonia. However, the report concludes that EVs will make up a greater part of the fleet in Estonia as time goes by.

An analysis of power consumption scenarios found that the electrification of the transport sector makes up roughly half of new capacity needed. At the same time, it was also found that recent studies and usage statistics suggest it is highly unlikely all EVs will be charged at the same time, which is why Estonia having more EVs is not an acute problem from the point of view of the grid.

The report also reads that EV adoption will add to flexibility of consumption, power storage and selling power back to the network in the future.

Study: Owners do not all charge their vehicles at the same time

An EV ownership study cited in the report found that owners do not charge their EVs nightly even if they have a home charger that is simple to use.

It is reported that the average user charged their EV 3.64 times per week in the U.K. The average vehicles is used to drive 42 kilometers per day, which can be done on roughly 10 kWh of power. An ordinary 11 kW charger can add that much power in under an hour.

Therefore, it is highly unlikely for most users to charge their vehicles every day and at the same day. So-called smart charging infrastructure could also help potential peak charging periods.

"Adoption of EVs comes with many positive effects in terms of more effective use of power infrastructure and reducing the environmental impact of transport," Rasmus Armas said.

European Commission: Estonia can apply for support for grid development

Vivian Loonela, head of the European Commission's Tallinn office, said in her comment to ERR that new renewable energy capacity goes hand-in-hand with distribution network development for which EU subsidies have been allocated.

"For example, Estonia's Recovery Fund plan includes measures for stronger grids. Other EU funds for Estonia that total €8 billion between now and 2027 can also be used for such investments," Loonela said.

The European Parliament on February 14 approved new emissions targets for passenger vehicles and small vans as part of Fit for 55, according to which such vehicles sold after 2035 must not emit any CO2 emissions. By 2030, new passenger cars must emit 55 percent less and vans 50 percent less emissions compared to the 2021 level.

The initiative has already been approved by the European Council.

The transport sector is responsible for 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU, and transport emissions need to be reduced by 90 percent if the EU is to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. The European Commission believes that the new rules give the car industry confidence to invest, promote innovation and competition to bring down the price of EVs.

The EU regulation does not concern trucks and buses.


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Editor: Mait Ots, Marcus Turovski

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