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How our transport system could power a future energy grid

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21
April

electric vehicle charging sign

Picture this. It’s 2030, and you’re the owner of an electric vehicle. Like many people across the country, part of your daily routine involves driving to work. But instead of simply leaving your car parked up all day, you plug in to one of your company’s on-site charging points when you arrive. 

It’s likely that your employer will use solar panels and battery storage technology, or a combined heat and power engine to make this happen – generating and storing energy for both its business and employees. 

Because most car journeys in the UK average at less than 25 miles, your travel needs are likely to be less than the energy storage capacity of your car. 

Your car battery effectively becomes an extra source of energy when you get home, so you simply park up and plug in to utilise your own mobile energy store through the night. 

electric vehicle plugged in at home

You won’t worry about an empty tank

Smart interfaces will ensure that there will always be enough charge left in your vehicle to make the journey back to work again the next morning, so there’s no danger of running out. 

And so the cycle begins again when you get to work the next day and recharge to 100%. It’s a future that is not too difficult to imagine, but realistically, it’s still a long way from where we are now. 

There are many benefits to using vehicles in this way… 

Instead of electrons moving around the country by conventional pylons and wires, they would move via batteries in our vehicles. 
And by charging up when renewables are plentiful – when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing – we’d be able to store power ready for use at peak times. 

…but how will it become reality?

The answer lies in the integration of ultra-low emission vehicles and smart charging (your car and charge points), with renewable energy sources and battery storage. 

But for this to work, we need to look at how the benefits of carbon emissions per mile via charging solutions align with things like localised solar or wind energy. 

We need policy that brings together transport, plus energy storage, plus distributed renewable generation. By incentivising all three, you effectively turn our transport system into our energy grid. 

How would it work?

Based on the idea of replacing the vast majority of the 30 million cars on UK roads, 1tWh of power could be made available for the grid. This huge scale would need drastic changes to how we think about energy, transport and buildings. 

The UK has electric vehicle targets all the way to 2050, but we’re already about five years ahead of that in terms of vehicle numbers. Estimates are that we will have around 700,000 by 2020 and 3-5 million by 2025. 

That’s a significant step up from the 80,000 or so we have now. So how do we get there? 

futuristic vehicle

The road ahead

It’s vital we give drivers confidence with improved access to charging points. So at E.ON, we’re working with businesses and local authorities to not only provide more, but a more efficient service to make charging easier. 

We also need more battery storage technologies in businesses, and in homes. It’s why we’re pioneering solar and battery storage, allowing you to store energy from the sun via solar panels to use later on. 

The future could also involve closer integration of technologies, allowing neighbouring buildings to benefit from scale and shared services. 

With the demand for new technologies showing no sign of slowing, and changes in attitudes towards renewable energy, local governments and businesses may drive fundamental changes to our infrastructure in the not-too-distant electric vehicle boom. 


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