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Role of electric vehicles in Energy transition

Energy transition refers to the switch from today’s energy system, which primarily relies on fossil fuels, to a system that runs on renewable energy sources like wind and solar. The driving forces behind this ambitious goal are climate change and sustainable development. 

Electric vehicles are the latest catalyst in the energy transition. Because it is estimated that road travel alone accounts for 15% of all CO₂ emissions globally. 

Electric vehicles and energy transition go hand in hand. More electric vehicles promote the energy transition and energy transition would make electric vehicles more user-friendly. With this article, we’ll explain the latest on Electric vehicles, energy transition, and their relationship. 

Why are Electric Vehicles booming right now?

The sale of electric vehicles (EVs) has accelerated in recent years. In China and Western Europe, every fifth new car sold is an EV. After all, the conditions have never been more favorable. 

  • Climatic requirements: California has pledged to make all vehicles sold to be zero-emission by 2035. While China’s short term goal is 20% EV penetration by 2025. The crux is that states and countries are making efforts to become carbon-neutral, and decarbonizing the road transportation system will be highly impactful.
  • Customer behavior: One of the biggest reasons why EVs were considered a hard sell until recently, is customer behavior. Concerns related to EVs like range anxiety and charging time have eased significantly. Besides, the reason why people are interested in EVs now is the social representation and climate consciousness. For instance, when number plates of EVs are painted green, people would want to own it to show others that they care about the environment. Hence, people are incentivized to choose EVs over Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles.
  • Investments: General Motors committed that by 2030, all of their new cars, trucks, and SUVs on the road would be electric. Similarly, FedEx and Amazon have pledged to become carbon neutral by 2040. These investments and promises from large companies will electrify entire vehicle fleets on the road, which would be a greater effect than only end-users buying EVs. It would be an enormous help to countries accomplish their pledged decarbonization goals in the Paris agreement.
  • Tesla: Tesla’s EV sales surged in 2021. Elon Musk’s Tesla has changed people’s view of Electric cars. What is expected to be ICE vehicle features are now Tesla’s defining features- Reduced range anxiety, minimum charging time by Superchargers, and acceleration speeds of 0-60 MPH in 2 seconds. Not to mention the auto-driving feature driving people crazy. Overall, Tesla has become the face of EVs in people’s eyes and only the future will tell what they have in the bag.

Despite the recent increase in EV sales around the globe, only some countries are on the track to meet their climate pledges. China, a special case, is actually ahead of its goal of phasing out gasoline-only car sales by 2035.  

However, only 3% of cars registered worldwide are electric. In the U.S., President Biden has passed a $7.5 billion EV charging action plan to build 500,000 charging stations across the country. But we are yet to see how well it works out because experts are looking at the potential downsides to this plan. Nevertheless, here’s what EVs have to offer other than transportation. 

How will Electric Vehicles integrate with the smart grid and smart city?

Earlier, we mentioned that the EVs and energy transition go hand in hand. Energy transition and the advent of EVs, both help countries tackle greenhouse emissions. A smart grid can be considered a subset of the energy transition as it aims to use renewable energy sources like wind and solar in energy generation. And establish a bi-directional flow in the electric grid to make energy usage more efficient. 

The way Electric Vehicles integrate with the smart grid to promote energy transition is using Vehicle to Grid (V2G) technology. In a traditional grid, power can only flow from utilities to end-users but in a smart grid, end-users can send excess power back to utilities. Hence, improving the resilience of the grid. And in V2G, the batteries of EVs will be used to sometimes send power back when demand is high. 

In other words, batteries of EVs will work as storage or reserve, and electric utilities will be able to take power from them to distribute to other areas when demand is high. However, this does not mean that your EV will be uncharged when you wake up in the morning. V2G is complicated technology and optimization techniques will be used extensively to ensure a safe and reliable experience for everyone. 

Moreover, the integration of EVs and charging stations into the smart grid will be a part of the bigger picture in a smart city. A smart city will employ countless technologies like V2G to create sustainable energy systems that will reduce carbon emissions and increase efficiency. 

How can electric car innovation fast forward energy transition?

Though today’s electric cars are a huge innovation compared to ICE vehicles and older EVs, they still lack the reliability and practicality to completely replace ICEs. Here are three EV innovations that will catalyze the energy transition.

Charging infrastructure

With the number of EVs on the road skyrocketing in upcoming years, the need for more charging stations is inevitable. The greatest convenience of ICE vehicles is that gas stations are just around every corner. Hence, a lot more charging stations are required to make the transition. Tesla has already announced that it will open its supercharger network to other cars. 

And the innovation in charging infrastructure is not just about building more stations, it’s also about making charging fast. Australia is working on creating a National Ultrafast EV Charging Infrastructure Network that will significantly drop range anxiety. 

Battery technology

Lithium-Ion batteries are currently a standard for EVs, and their prices have dropped significantly in the last decade.  However, for mass adoption, increased battery efficiency to cost ratio is the key, says EV opinion. Innovations are currently being made in developing Lithium-sulphur batteries and solid-state batteries. 

V2G

As explained earlier, V2G will transform our view of EVs. Innovations in this complicated technology will turn end-users into prosumers i.e., they both consume and produce. When millions of EV batteries are combined, a decentralized storage source will be used to provide in high demands. 

Looking to the future

Road travel alone is one of the biggest carbon emitters. Hence, its decarbonization is of paramount importance as we go through this energy transition. Electric vehicles play a significant role in catalyzing this transition. They will be the driving force required to add renewable energy sources to electricity generation.

Last year, we saw a huge surge in EV sales. It was due to a combined effort of lawmakers, companies, and consumers appreciating the energy transition. While EVs still occupy a small percentage of vehicles on the road, the numbers are increasing every year. It is estimated that by 2030, fifty percent of all new vehicle sales will be electric. 

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