Last week I wrote a short item regarding EVs and the ‘infrastructure’ challenge that might be posed by a nation (or neighbourhood) of EV owners plugging in at the same time.
An electrifying debate has ensued, with pitched battle underway amongst those commenting. Can our homes and local/regional/national grids handle the load if everyone plugs in for an overnight top-up before going to bed? Some are quite cautious about it; others say ‘no prob’.
It’s an argument over both how consumers will actually behave (and what their EV charging needs will be) and also the basic physics of electricity. One would think that there’s no much room for argument over the Amps and Volts.
But there appears to be, and it’s beyond my pay grade.
So I looked for what might be an unassailable source on the technical aspects. And here it is: Standards NZ: Electric vehicle (EV) chargers for residential use. Everything you could possibly want to know about charging your EV.
Why dwell on this? Because EVs are coming.
Meanwhile it’s still unclear whether — eventually — if you and ten of your EV neighbours all plug in at 10pm, will you crash the grid? At the moment, we’re far from market saturation!
So while the debate is a bit academic at the moment, it does underscore that policy pronouncements and strategic visions (whether energy transformation or reform of health care delivery) must take into account the achievable pace and logistics of implementation.
Meantime, the industry hasn’t been sitting on its hands according to Nigel Purdy, a self-described “young-at-heart electrical engineer” who happens to be Group Development Manager Growth and Innovation for Unison.
Nigel commented to BayBuzz: “It’s important to remember that this is a multiyear and, in actual fact, a multidecade transition for the country. There are no surprises here when it comes to planning and preparing for the transition to electric vehicles (EVs). Lines companies have been forecasting scenarios to plan and prepare for increased uptake of EVs and the additional load on the network for many years.
“We have many options available to us to accommodate this exciting future of transport in New Zealand. These include providing additional capacity where required, but also encouraging the introduction of new technologies that manage and optimise when and how EVs draw their charge from within the house and the network. These technologies not only make the most of the available network capacity but can also minimise the cost of charging, for example by using overnight charging and off-peak rates. Successful trials of managed charging in Auckland and Wellington have demonstrated that these options are both feasible and attractive to consumers.”
We’ll hear more from Unison in the future.
Without question, investment will need to be made at the household and grid operator (the Unisons of NZ) levels to ensure optimum convenience and performance as the nation electrifies (and not just in transportation).
Alternatively, you can follow the advice of my neighbour — a well-wired electrician who’s “indifferent” on EVs — and wait for a hydrogen car. That said, he’s impressed like I am with the Ford-150 Lightning (“pretty cool” he says) , Ford’s global bet on EV pick-up trucks/utes. And Labour’s answer, in time, for farmers and tradies.