LUT University’s doctoral candidate Ville Tikka has studied how the electricity grid and distribution system should be developed as the number of EVs keeps growing. A successful design enables the large-scale, problem-free electrification of transportation, which is of utmost importance also from the EV driver’s point of view.
“The evaluation and control of the EV charging load are key factors in the planning and development of the electricity distribution network. For the EV user, a successful system design means smooth and functional charging,” says Tikka.
The large-scale electrification of transportation reduces the use of fossil fuels and emissions from the transport sector, which is essential for curbing climate change and achieving carbon neutrality in accordance with EU goals.
Advantages for the electricity sector and housing companies
EV charging is a significant additional load on the electricity grid. Modelling the EV charging load and identifying different use cases benefit several energy system players, such as electricity retailers, base and distribution network companies and aggregators.
“My research results also support the decision-making of housing companies, for example, by shedding light on how different EV charging methods impact the load on the electrical system,” adds Tikka.
EV charging can be controlled with smart charging applications for purposes such as automated price-based charging or building-specific dynamic load control.
Controlled or uncontrolled EV charging
- The load on the electric grid depends greatly on whether EV charging is controlled by means of smart charging applications.
- Uncontrolled charging is easy to forecast but often increases the pressure to strengthen the grid.
- Dynamic load control depending on the demand keeps the charging load within certain limits so that the need to strengthen the grid can be avoided.
- Charging control based on the lowest electricity price can cause significant regional demand peaks, which must be considered when planning the electric system.
Cold weather conditions increase the load
The study confirmed that cold weather conditions increase the EV charging load substantially. Driving in the extreme cold significantly heightens an EV’s energy consumption. The car must be charged more often, and the charging-energy demand is greater.
An EV’s batteries need to be heated for charging in the cold, which in turn increases the energy demand and energy consumption during charging. Preheating or defrosting the car before driving also consumes a great deal of energy because it is done with electricity.
Therefore, the Finnish electricity sector is among those that need to prepare for the charging load that comes with the increasing number of EVs.
Next research focuses on bidirectional charging
Ville Tikka will continue his career as a researcher at LUT, focusing on electric transport and electric power systems. He is currently working on the international DriVe2X research project, which examines low-cost, low-power EV charging solutions, such as home charging and long-term parking. The research focuses on bidirectional charging, which means that the EV battery could serve as a backup power source at home, balance the load on the electricity grid, or enable the EV owner to sell electricity to the electricity market.
“LUT is coordinating the project consortium of 18 partners, but we are also researching and defining the business models and use cases of bidirectional charging, which are needed in the development of novel EV charging applications,” says Tikka.
A core group of a few researchers in LUT’s electricity market laboratory is working full-time on the project. Additional expertise is provided by a large group of professionals from the electrical engineering department at LUT.