The Future of EVs: Renewable Energy Sources for Electric Vehicles
There are many reasons behind the resurgence of electric vehicles in the 21st century, but the most talked-about is their potential to help reduce the effects of climate change. Less resource-intensive and with far lower emissions than internal combustion engine (ICE) cars, there’s no question that EVs are a necessary part of the response to today’s climate emergency.
But there’s a catch. EVs run on rechargeable battery packs, but the power to refuel those battery packs often comes from the same sources, contributing to the problem. With many regional power grids reliant on coal, natural gas, and oil, EVs aren’t being used to their full eco-friendly potential.
That’s a problem, but there is a solution: renewable energy. If you want to find out more about a few key renewable energy sources for electric vehicles, take a look at the following article to learn how tomorrow’s EVs could get their power.
Electric Vehicles and the Power Grid: Where Things Stand
Fossil fuels have been a popular energy source throughout human history. But, the expansion of heavy industry and petroleum consumption in the 19th and 20th centuries brought the risks associated with their use into sharp focus. Even today, about 60% of the electricity produced in the United States comes from power plants run on coal, natural gas, and oil.
Although EVs are two to three times more efficient than ICE cars, the environmental advantage they offer is offset by the fact that, nationwide, the majority of the power used in public charging stations and for home charging comes from these harmful sources. That means that while EVs are less harmful to the environment, they aren’t reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) as much as they could be.
Renewable energy technologies like solar and wind power have existed in their current forms for decades, but there have been some substantial hurdles to using them to replace fossil fuels. For one, renewables have only recently become cost-competitive with fossil fuels. For another, it will require large amounts of funding to switch large grids over to renewable energy sources and to install the infrastructure to store and distribute it.
So, for now, EV charging networks in many regions can’t offer more sustainable charging simply because renewable energy isn’t yet in widespread use. That doesn’t mean there’s no solution, however.
How Renewables Can Change the Face of EV Charging
Charging networks will have to implement more renewables, in some innovative forms, to reduce the environmental impact.
Renewable energy might not be powering the majority of grids in the United States, but it’s widespread enough that there are several ways EV drivers can make use of it. One such solution is managed charging, an arrangement in which drivers agree to wait to charge until more renewable energy is available outside of peak demand hours. In exchange, customers can typically expect to pay less for their energy while reducing the load on their local or regional grid.
Renewable Network Charging
A more direct way to switch to renewable energy is to sign up with a company that offers renewable-only EV charging. This is typically offered as an alternative to standard grid-reliant charging plans, but for a monthly fee, you can access public charging stations fully run on solar, wind, or hydroelectric power.
Another method of renewable charging involves the use of on-site solar panels or wind turbines. In the renewables sector, this is known as a “stand-alone” or “off-grid” system, whereby energy is harvested from renewable sources for immediate use on-site. On larger sites, such as university or hospital campuses or commercial workplaces, these can be tied into a microgrid to increase the amount of available power and further increase overall sustainability across the site.
A challenge with on-site renewable charging is energy storage. The most practical and widespread solutions to this issue are battery energy storage systems (BESS). The batteries can be purpose-built for storage, or they can be second-life EV batteries.
These are decommissioned EV batteries which can no longer hold a sufficient charge for travel, but still retain 80-85% of their original capacity. Using these is an excellent way to reduce waste and to help EVs contribute to more sustainable energy consumption.
As renewable energy solutions become more widespread and sophisticated, they’ll become a key element in supporting increased EV usage in the coming years. And if you’re wondering how you can switch to renewable EV charging, research charging networks in your area that have implemented solar or wind energy charging schemes or managed charging programs.
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By evee Life Contributor
Published September 6, 2023 5:37PM
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