The Electrification of Transportation

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What do you get when you put microgrid developers, policy experts, and electrical engineers in a room together? An exhilarating experience.

This year’s HOMER International Microgrid Conference brought together energy experts from 17 different countries to exchange case studies, share technical presentations, and to map out the future path of microgrid development.

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One particularly insightful moment took place during a tour of the University of California San Diego (UCSD) microgrid, an advanced energy network that provides electricity for the university’s 450-hectare campus. The system is powered by two 13.5 MW gas turbines, one 3 MW steam turbine, and a 1.2 MW solar array that together generate 92% of the university’s electricity usage. Not only does the microgrid save the university an estimated $8 million in energy expenditures each year, it infuses students with environmental awareness, and it serves as a test bed for an array of new energy technologies.

Byron Washom, UC San Diego’s Director of Strategic Energy Initiatives, showed conference attendees around an area that he refers to as his “energy sandbox.” The test bed, located in an open space on the edge of campus, is home to a number of EV charging stations, large-scale batteries, fuel cells, waste heat capture technologies, and a thermal energy storage tank built inside an electric vehicle charging parking lot.

UCSD’s fleet of electric vehicles and array of charging technologies makes it abundantly clear that the electrification of transportation is not something that will take place in the distant future—it is happening now. Therefore, the market has reached a critical period for making policy decisions and business choices that can support the harmonious integration of EVs as mobile energy assets within a larger power framework.

Ev Station
University of California, San Diego EV charging station.
Photo courtesy of Henry Waldman

A recent report by the World Economic Forum explains that by 2040 more than half of all new cars sold in the word will be EVs, with 70% of the market share in Europe, and over 50% in China. With each of these cars capable of forming a microgrid and connecting to an expanded network of microgrids, the product of their charge and discharge cycles will be monumental. The flow of electrons will be especially significant if used to provide demand response services to help balance the power grid. A whitepaper by AutoGrid outlines this convergence of energy and transportation as well as opportunities for symbiosis.

What are your impressions? How do you predict the electrification of transportation will affect energy generation and distribution? How will business models change? De Bug Web

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