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How Fleet Managers Could Get Paid to Switch to Electric Vehicles in Future

How Fleet Managers Could Get Paid to Switch to Electric Vehicles in Future

ONE of the biggest obstacles to more widespread uptake of electric vehicles is the perception that they are much more expensive than their diesel or petrol alternatives.

The latest ‘Second Generation’ EVs like the Audi e-Tron and Mercedes EQC do indeed carry a substantial premium over their conventional rivals, but the higher cost of purchase is offset by cheaper running costs and – in some cases – higher resale values.

But if fleet managers discovered they could get paid for running EVs – would that trigger an acceleration in fleet sales of EVs?

Well, in a similar way that homeowners who installed solar panels get paid for the electricity they generate, EV owners could get paid for the electricity they store.

The latest EVs don’t simply consume electricity – they can also feed it back into the grid. This means it’s possible to charge a vehicle with ‘cheap’ off-peak electricity overnight and then export it back to the grid during periods of peak demand for a profit.

The technology that makes this possible is called Vehicle to Grid (V2G), which allows electric vehicles to become part of a smart power grid – and it could be pivotal in accelerating the electrification of fleets in the future. 

By using two-way V2G charging technology, when plugged in, vehicles can recharge with cheap, abundant electricity, but at times of peak demand, they release some of that electricity back into the grid. 

According to a recent report from Element Energy, fleet operators could earn around €60 a month per vehicle by allowing their EV batteries to help balance supply and demand.

As more and more of Europe’s energy is generated from renewables like wind, solar, wave and tidal power, the case for investing in a smart energy distribution grid becomes more clearcut.

The rapid growth of the EV fleet is creating a pool of spare electricity storage capacity and this capacity is not being used for around 95 per cent of the time, when these vehicles are parked (and hooked up to a chargepoint).

A smart grid can balance and distribute power generated from southern Europe, where solar energy is more prevalent and Northern Europe, where wind and tidal energy systems are more common.

Electric vehicle batteries could play a central role in balancing the grid across the entire continent, so the introduction of a robust two-way V2G charging network is vital to driving this transition.

Tesla, Renault and Nissan have been working on V2G for several years and the technology is being trialled in the UK and the Netherlands by a consortium of investors, energy utilities and car-makers.

Renault has been running a 20-vehicle trial on the island of Porto Santo for a more than a year. Since February 2018, islanders have been driving a 20-vehicle fleet of Renault Zoes and Kangoo vans with access to a network of 40 chargepoints around the island. 

The scheme is part of the Sustainable Porto Santo project, which aims to turn the 42 km2 island into Europe’s first zero carbon territory. Despite a sunny and windy climate, only 15 per cent of the island’s power comes from renewables, because – until now – there has been no way to store any excess power generated. It is hoped that the Renault project will help increase this to 19 per cent. 

Nissan has already launched a V2G option in Germany and in the UK, innovative alternative energy investor Octopus has teamed up with a number of partners to offer a two-way charging solution for UK consumers.

Customers get a bundle, which includes a two-way charger and support systems when they lease a V2G-compatible EV.

The package allows EV drivers to make money from their cars while they are not being driven, and also enables the EV to provide power for the home during peak times or sell spare power back to the grid, then recharging to benefit from cheaper off-peak tariffs. 

In the future, Europe’s emerging smart energy grid will allow energy to be stored and moved to where it is needed across the entire continent and far from overwhelming this grid, electric vehicles are going to be at the heart of this transition.

While still in its early development phase V2G could mean a better deal for fleets, for drivers and for the planet.

Caption: One of the Renault Zoe EVs helping capture and store solar power as part of the Sustainable Porto Santo project.

Images © Renault Press

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