The potential impact of electric cars on wind

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Richard Heap
July 17, 2017
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This content is from our archive. Some formatting or links may be broken.
The potential impact of electric cars on wind

I hate buying cars. That is a tough admission when I work with Adam, who loves the things, but I have to break cover. Sorry, I just don’t get it. Give me something reliable with a decent price tag and the power to overtake middle-lane hogs, and I’m happy.

This means that when I last bought a car three years ago, I didn’t bother looking at electric vehicles in depth. They were expensive, looked too new-fangled to be reliable, and I never see charging points. I quickly thought: “Why bother?” According to a study by management consultancy McKinsey this year, I am not alone.

McKinsey said 30% of people it surveyed in the US had thought about buying an electric car, but only 3% did. Fifty-four percent of people in Germany had thought about it, but only 4% had bought one. Reasons for this low conversion rate include concerns about reliability, charging points and whether electric cars are fun.

But the biggest reason that people did not buy electric vehicles is the cost, which is because of the high cost of lithium-ion batteries.

So why is this of interest in wind? Simply, because the wind industry has a vested interest in electric vehicles becoming more attractive. It means more customers for the electricity produced by wind farms and, if large numbers of electric vehicles are connected to the grid, then it should give stability to support wind and solar projects. In this UK, this could mean 18GW of extra electricity demand by 2050 according to National Grid.

The idea here is that electric vehicles connected to the grid can, essentially, act as a huge battery pack.

An average car is parked 95% of the time. If millions of vehicles are connected to the grid to charge their batteries, there is also the potential that electricity could flow the other way. For example, if a utility is experiencing high demand then they could buy a certain amount of power stored in a vehicle’s battery at a price set by the owner. This could provide vital support at times of high demand.

And vehicles that are being charged can also provide a reliable source of demand at the times when wind turbines are still spinning but other electricity demand is low – mainly in the middle of the night. The sectors appear to fit very neatly.

Governments are getting on board too.

This month, France pledged to ban sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040; Germany and India are mulling plans to do so by 2030; and the Netherlands and Norway by 2025. It is one thing to announce a policy and quite another for it to be introduced many years later, during which time political change could wreak all sorts of havoc, but it shows this is at least on the agenda.

And Volvo has said it will only build electric-only and hybrid vehicles from 2019. This is a step in the right direction, though not enough to spark a revolution on its own.

However, even the most enthusiastic backers of electric vehicles suggest we are still a decade from a tipping point. This month, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said the falling cost of lithium-ion batteries would make electric vehicles cheaper than petrol or diesel vehicles in most countries in the second half of the 2020s.

It added that the cost of these batteries is set to fall by more than 70% by 2030, and forecast that electric vehicles would account for 54% of new car sales by 2040. This could add 5% to electricity consumption globally, which opens opportunities for wind.

We should be careful about linking the growth of wind too closely with the expansion of electric vehicles, though. This is no substitute for the work being done by firms like Tesla, EDF and Siemens to develop utility-scale battery projects for wind farms.

We see potential in vehicle-to-grid systems. They make sense. But this will not take off until people see electric vehicles are as cheap and reliable as their petrol cousins.

So here’s a promise: if I seriously consider buying an electric car, I’ll tell you. When people who aren’t ‘car people’ start buying them, the industry is at a tipping point – with knock-on benefits for wind.

I hate buying cars. That is a tough admission when I work with Adam, who loves the things, but I have to break cover. Sorry, I just don’t get it. Give me something reliable with a decent price tag and the power to overtake middle-lane hogs, and I’m happy.

This means that when I last bought a car three years ago, I didn’t bother looking at electric vehicles in depth. They were expensive, looked too new-fangled to be reliable, and I never see charging points. I quickly thought: “Why bother?” According to a study by management consultancy McKinsey this year, I am not alone.

McKinsey said 30% of people it surveyed in the US had thought about buying an electric car, but only 3% did. Fifty-four percent of people in Germany had thought about it, but only 4% had bought one. Reasons for this low conversion rate include concerns about reliability, charging points and whether electric cars are fun.

But the biggest reason that people did not buy electric vehicles is the cost, which is because of the high cost of lithium-ion batteries.

So why is this of interest in wind? Simply, because the wind industry has a vested interest in electric vehicles becoming more attractive. It means more customers for the electricity produced by wind farms and, if large numbers of electric vehicles are connected to the grid, then it should give stability to support wind and solar projects. In this UK, this could mean 18GW of extra electricity demand by 2050 according to National Grid.

The idea here is that electric vehicles connected to the grid can, essentially, act as a huge battery pack.

An average car is parked 95% of the time. If millions of vehicles are connected to the grid to charge their batteries, there is also the potential that electricity could flow the other way. For example, if a utility is experiencing high demand then they could buy a certain amount of power stored in a vehicle’s battery at a price set by the owner. This could provide vital support at times of high demand.

And vehicles that are being charged can also provide a reliable source of demand at the times when wind turbines are still spinning but other electricity demand is low – mainly in the middle of the night. The sectors appear to fit very neatly.

Governments are getting on board too.

This month, France pledged to ban sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040; Germany and India are mulling plans to do so by 2030; and the Netherlands and Norway by 2025. It is one thing to announce a policy and quite another for it to be introduced many years later, during which time political change could wreak all sorts of havoc, but it shows this is at least on the agenda.

And Volvo has said it will only build electric-only and hybrid vehicles from 2019. This is a step in the right direction, though not enough to spark a revolution on its own.

However, even the most enthusiastic backers of electric vehicles suggest we are still a decade from a tipping point. This month, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said the falling cost of lithium-ion batteries would make electric vehicles cheaper than petrol or diesel vehicles in most countries in the second half of the 2020s.

It added that the cost of these batteries is set to fall by more than 70% by 2030, and forecast that electric vehicles would account for 54% of new car sales by 2040. This could add 5% to electricity consumption globally, which opens opportunities for wind.

We should be careful about linking the growth of wind too closely with the expansion of electric vehicles, though. This is no substitute for the work being done by firms like Tesla, EDF and Siemens to develop utility-scale battery projects for wind farms.

We see potential in vehicle-to-grid systems. They make sense. But this will not take off until people see electric vehicles are as cheap and reliable as their petrol cousins.

So here’s a promise: if I seriously consider buying an electric car, I’ll tell you. When people who aren’t ‘car people’ start buying them, the industry is at a tipping point – with knock-on benefits for wind.

I hate buying cars. That is a tough admission when I work with Adam, who loves the things, but I have to break cover. Sorry, I just don’t get it. Give me something reliable with a decent price tag and the power to overtake middle-lane hogs, and I’m happy.

This means that when I last bought a car three years ago, I didn’t bother looking at electric vehicles in depth. They were expensive, looked too new-fangled to be reliable, and I never see charging points. I quickly thought: “Why bother?” According to a study by management consultancy McKinsey this year, I am not alone.

McKinsey said 30% of people it surveyed in the US had thought about buying an electric car, but only 3% did. Fifty-four percent of people in Germany had thought about it, but only 4% had bought one. Reasons for this low conversion rate include concerns about reliability, charging points and whether electric cars are fun.

But the biggest reason that people did not buy electric vehicles is the cost, which is because of the high cost of lithium-ion batteries.

So why is this of interest in wind? Simply, because the wind industry has a vested interest in electric vehicles becoming more attractive. It means more customers for the electricity produced by wind farms and, if large numbers of electric vehicles are connected to the grid, then it should give stability to support wind and solar projects. In this UK, this could mean 18GW of extra electricity demand by 2050 according to National Grid.

The idea here is that electric vehicles connected to the grid can, essentially, act as a huge battery pack.

An average car is parked 95% of the time. If millions of vehicles are connected to the grid to charge their batteries, there is also the potential that electricity could flow the other way. For example, if a utility is experiencing high demand then they could buy a certain amount of power stored in a vehicle’s battery at a price set by the owner. This could provide vital support at times of high demand.

And vehicles that are being charged can also provide a reliable source of demand at the times when wind turbines are still spinning but other electricity demand is low – mainly in the middle of the night. The sectors appear to fit very neatly.

Governments are getting on board too.

This month, France pledged to ban sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040; Germany and India are mulling plans to do so by 2030; and the Netherlands and Norway by 2025. It is one thing to announce a policy and quite another for it to be introduced many years later, during which time political change could wreak all sorts of havoc, but it shows this is at least on the agenda.

And Volvo has said it will only build electric-only and hybrid vehicles from 2019. This is a step in the right direction, though not enough to spark a revolution on its own.

However, even the most enthusiastic backers of electric vehicles suggest we are still a decade from a tipping point. This month, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said the falling cost of lithium-ion batteries would make electric vehicles cheaper than petrol or diesel vehicles in most countries in the second half of the 2020s.

It added that the cost of these batteries is set to fall by more than 70% by 2030, and forecast that electric vehicles would account for 54% of new car sales by 2040. This could add 5% to electricity consumption globally, which opens opportunities for wind.

We should be careful about linking the growth of wind too closely with the expansion of electric vehicles, though. This is no substitute for the work being done by firms like Tesla, EDF and Siemens to develop utility-scale battery projects for wind farms.

We see potential in vehicle-to-grid systems. They make sense. But this will not take off until people see electric vehicles are as cheap and reliable as their petrol cousins.

So here’s a promise: if I seriously consider buying an electric car, I’ll tell you. When people who aren’t ‘car people’ start buying them, the industry is at a tipping point – with knock-on benefits for wind.

I hate buying cars. That is a tough admission when I work with Adam, who loves the things, but I have to break cover. Sorry, I just don’t get it. Give me something reliable with a decent price tag and the power to overtake middle-lane hogs, and I’m happy.

This means that when I last bought a car three years ago, I didn’t bother looking at electric vehicles in depth. They were expensive, looked too new-fangled to be reliable, and I never see charging points. I quickly thought: “Why bother?” According to a study by management consultancy McKinsey this year, I am not alone.

McKinsey said 30% of people it surveyed in the US had thought about buying an electric car, but only 3% did. Fifty-four percent of people in Germany had thought about it, but only 4% had bought one. Reasons for this low conversion rate include concerns about reliability, charging points and whether electric cars are fun.

But the biggest reason that people did not buy electric vehicles is the cost, which is because of the high cost of lithium-ion batteries.

So why is this of interest in wind? Simply, because the wind industry has a vested interest in electric vehicles becoming more attractive. It means more customers for the electricity produced by wind farms and, if large numbers of electric vehicles are connected to the grid, then it should give stability to support wind and solar projects. In this UK, this could mean 18GW of extra electricity demand by 2050 according to National Grid.

The idea here is that electric vehicles connected to the grid can, essentially, act as a huge battery pack.

An average car is parked 95% of the time. If millions of vehicles are connected to the grid to charge their batteries, there is also the potential that electricity could flow the other way. For example, if a utility is experiencing high demand then they could buy a certain amount of power stored in a vehicle’s battery at a price set by the owner. This could provide vital support at times of high demand.

And vehicles that are being charged can also provide a reliable source of demand at the times when wind turbines are still spinning but other electricity demand is low – mainly in the middle of the night. The sectors appear to fit very neatly.

Governments are getting on board too.

This month, France pledged to ban sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040; Germany and India are mulling plans to do so by 2030; and the Netherlands and Norway by 2025. It is one thing to announce a policy and quite another for it to be introduced many years later, during which time political change could wreak all sorts of havoc, but it shows this is at least on the agenda.

And Volvo has said it will only build electric-only and hybrid vehicles from 2019. This is a step in the right direction, though not enough to spark a revolution on its own.

However, even the most enthusiastic backers of electric vehicles suggest we are still a decade from a tipping point. This month, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said the falling cost of lithium-ion batteries would make electric vehicles cheaper than petrol or diesel vehicles in most countries in the second half of the 2020s.

It added that the cost of these batteries is set to fall by more than 70% by 2030, and forecast that electric vehicles would account for 54% of new car sales by 2040. This could add 5% to electricity consumption globally, which opens opportunities for wind.

We should be careful about linking the growth of wind too closely with the expansion of electric vehicles, though. This is no substitute for the work being done by firms like Tesla, EDF and Siemens to develop utility-scale battery projects for wind farms.

We see potential in vehicle-to-grid systems. They make sense. But this will not take off until people see electric vehicles are as cheap and reliable as their petrol cousins.

So here’s a promise: if I seriously consider buying an electric car, I’ll tell you. When people who aren’t ‘car people’ start buying them, the industry is at a tipping point – with knock-on benefits for wind.

I hate buying cars. That is a tough admission when I work with Adam, who loves the things, but I have to break cover. Sorry, I just don’t get it. Give me something reliable with a decent price tag and the power to overtake middle-lane hogs, and I’m happy.

This means that when I last bought a car three years ago, I didn’t bother looking at electric vehicles in depth. They were expensive, looked too new-fangled to be reliable, and I never see charging points. I quickly thought: “Why bother?” According to a study by management consultancy McKinsey this year, I am not alone.

McKinsey said 30% of people it surveyed in the US had thought about buying an electric car, but only 3% did. Fifty-four percent of people in Germany had thought about it, but only 4% had bought one. Reasons for this low conversion rate include concerns about reliability, charging points and whether electric cars are fun.

But the biggest reason that people did not buy electric vehicles is the cost, which is because of the high cost of lithium-ion batteries.

So why is this of interest in wind? Simply, because the wind industry has a vested interest in electric vehicles becoming more attractive. It means more customers for the electricity produced by wind farms and, if large numbers of electric vehicles are connected to the grid, then it should give stability to support wind and solar projects. In this UK, this could mean 18GW of extra electricity demand by 2050 according to National Grid.

The idea here is that electric vehicles connected to the grid can, essentially, act as a huge battery pack.

An average car is parked 95% of the time. If millions of vehicles are connected to the grid to charge their batteries, there is also the potential that electricity could flow the other way. For example, if a utility is experiencing high demand then they could buy a certain amount of power stored in a vehicle’s battery at a price set by the owner. This could provide vital support at times of high demand.

And vehicles that are being charged can also provide a reliable source of demand at the times when wind turbines are still spinning but other electricity demand is low – mainly in the middle of the night. The sectors appear to fit very neatly.

Governments are getting on board too.

This month, France pledged to ban sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040; Germany and India are mulling plans to do so by 2030; and the Netherlands and Norway by 2025. It is one thing to announce a policy and quite another for it to be introduced many years later, during which time political change could wreak all sorts of havoc, but it shows this is at least on the agenda.

And Volvo has said it will only build electric-only and hybrid vehicles from 2019. This is a step in the right direction, though not enough to spark a revolution on its own.

However, even the most enthusiastic backers of electric vehicles suggest we are still a decade from a tipping point. This month, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said the falling cost of lithium-ion batteries would make electric vehicles cheaper than petrol or diesel vehicles in most countries in the second half of the 2020s.

It added that the cost of these batteries is set to fall by more than 70% by 2030, and forecast that electric vehicles would account for 54% of new car sales by 2040. This could add 5% to electricity consumption globally, which opens opportunities for wind.

We should be careful about linking the growth of wind too closely with the expansion of electric vehicles, though. This is no substitute for the work being done by firms like Tesla, EDF and Siemens to develop utility-scale battery projects for wind farms.

We see potential in vehicle-to-grid systems. They make sense. But this will not take off until people see electric vehicles are as cheap and reliable as their petrol cousins.

So here’s a promise: if I seriously consider buying an electric car, I’ll tell you. When people who aren’t ‘car people’ start buying them, the industry is at a tipping point – with knock-on benefits for wind.

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Not a member yet?

Become a member of the 6,500-strong A Word About Wind community today, and gain access to our premium content, exclusive lead generation and investment opportunities.