What is the relationship between an electric grid and an EV? Find out in this week's episode of #UtilimarcFleetFYIs.
EV Survey Resource: https://www.utilimarc.com/ev-performance-2023-survey/
Gretchen Reese (00:19):
Welcome to the Fleet FYIs podcast, the weekly podcast by Utilimarc that reveals how you can make the most of your data for smarter fleet management. My name is Gretchen, and every week, I'll be sharing with you, not only over two decades' worth of data insights, but some of the industry's hottest talking points and key metric analysis with the aim to help you better understand your fleet from every angle.
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Hello everyone, and welcome back to another episode of the Fleet FYIs podcast. Before we get into today's episode content, which is part three of our four-part EV tech series, I wanted to let you know that earlier this week, the Utilimarc team published the results of our annual electric vehicles and EV performance survey. It's the same one I've been on about for the last two weeks, and this resource is jam-packed with information on electric vehicles, challenges, charger types, how reporting is currently done, and past and present purchasing choices, or plans to purchase from different OEMs. So if you are wanting to get your hands on it, I will, one, link it in the description of this episode so you can get it straight away. Otherwise, you can head over to www.utilimarc.com/surveys, U-T-I-L-I-M-A-R-C.com/ surveys to download the results there.
Anyways, before I ramble on any longer, let's dig into the show.
All right, so today I wanted to chat with you about electric grids and how they work within the scope of this electric vehicle movement that we're seeing within the fleet industry. Well, one, we all know which electric grid I'm talking about, right? We're all familiar with the topic by now. It's the mechanism that allows for power generation and distribution. It's how we access power to turn on our TVs, charge our phones, and even use a power saw if you feel so inclined.
It's come into question as of late if they can actually support the growing number of electric vehicles hitting the road. Can they generate enough power? Can they distribute it fast enough? We know at this point, that an electric vehicle battery requires the input of direct current, otherwise called DC power, in order to absorb the electric potential and have it become an energy source capable of powering a battery-powered electric vehicle. The electric grid, which is the most common access point to the energy required to charge this EV, is a source of alternating current or AC power, which as you might assume, can pose a challenge for the charging needs of EV fleets.
Now, this power is generated through the centralized or decentralized methods. Basically, a centralized power source is generated at a large scale and at a distance from where it's ultimately consumed, and centralized power sources include coal, nuclear, gas, hydro, or even large wind and solar farms. We've all seen the big wind turbines in the fields of solar panels when we're driving through rural, I would say, Minnesota. We see a lot of them up here, but also, all across the US and even across the world.
These centralized power generation methods are the primary mode of power consumption for nearly all consumers, where an extensive network of transformers, substations, and power lines transmit this generated power at high voltages, step down the voltage at substations, and then, ultimately, deliver this power for end-user consumption at our homes, at our businesses, wherever we're getting this literal plugin to the grid.
Decentralized generation happens at much smaller scales in the form of, say, a singular rooftop solar panel or a turbine, and these power sources are often connected to the grid, so that waste associated with energy storage is reduced. So the power given to and taken from the grid is metered locally to determine the ultimate consumer price, or in some cases, a rebate from the utility company.
So one distinct challenge with electricity as an energy source is the inefficiency of electric storage. We've known this for a while. This is nothing new, and whilst gasoline could be purchased and stockpiled for later use, storing electricity is a lot harder, which is where this big debate comes up when it talks about energy efficiency in terms of gasoline versus an electric-powered car or full-on vehicle.
In fact, a lot of the problems that are facing the EV grid or the electric grid are directly related to our inability to store electricity reliably. That's the biggest thing. Electric load on the grid depends on many factors from the weather, hour of the day, large events where you see an influx of consumers to an area. We have the capability to produce massive amounts of electricity, albeit at some carbon cost for the time being.
But the thing is, power generation isn't really the issue here. That's not what I'm getting at. The issue comes from storage solutions that are inefficient and really expensive, which no one loves, right? Currently, the primary form of electric storage is hydropower, comprising about 96 of energy storage solutions as of 2013. That was about 10 years ago, but it still is a pretty similar number. Recent efforts are attempting to develop alternative technologies with the Department of Energy announcing the 75 million grid storage launchpad project, aimed specifically to develop such solutions, even further, to make them more efficient and more reliable for future energy storage purposes and initiatives. But ultimately, when electric utilities are not able to stockpile their energy resources, and this isn't on the plate of the electric utility, it's just a common issue we're all experiencing, it's hard to stockpile energy, they're forced to purchase energy from increasingly less-desirable sources.
Many electric utilities are wholly responsible for producing the power that they provide to customers, but oftentimes, these utilities may need to purchase energy from a third-party source during peak hours. This is partially why peak pricing models exist, as some utilities purchase more expensive forms of energy to compensate for higher loads.
With all of the challenges that surround energy storage and energy production, and making sure we have enough to fit, you're probably wondering what a potential solution could be here because I think a lot of people hear challenges with the electric grid, and they go, "Oh, no. What's going to happen? How are we going to work our way through this?"
Well, a lot of experts in the field are leaning towards what's known as a microgrid. So due to peak pricing and the need for more energy, some cities and other entities, other electric utilities, have begun to install what's called a microgrid to provide themselves with supplemental power at a lower cost. Microgrids have typically been used as a resource in emergency weather conditions and places prone to power outages, and in remote areas without grid access, but recently, they've been popping up with a lot more frequency in urban cities, at hospitals, and in universities.
If you want to learn more about this, I'm going to tell you about a microgrid that is based in Jersey City in just a second, but if you want to learn more about this, we've done a couple of podcast episodes on this in the past. You just have to search microgrids in the Fleet FYIs directory, and you'll find it. It's some really interesting stuff, especially how people are being able to, not only use solar power, but also wind power or even their own charging of their EVs to supply their own microgrids. It's cool stuff.
Basically, what I'm getting at here, is microgrids are small-scale electricity networks that can work in tandem with a traditional grid, or they can be fully disconnected to function autonomously. Microgrids can run on power, like I said, from sources both renewable and non-renewable, but with sustainability on the mind, a lot of people are seeing the opportunity in creating these microgrids that are powered by this solar or wind power like I was just talking about. So not only does this give organizations the advantage of using clean electricity only on this smaller scale, but it's also reassuring to know that local hospitals, fire stations, or grocery stores are covered in case of power outages or a storm in a certain area.
Jersey City, like I mentioned, had a different idea for the use of microgrids, and they saw a great opportunity in conjunction with a plan for their electric municipal fleet and their EV garbage trucks. Jersey City was the first city on the East Coast to deploy five all-electric, rear-loader refuse trucks in 2020 as a part of Mayor Steven M. Fulop's executive order to fully electrify the municipal fleet by 2030. Along with the EV garbage trucks, the order includes adopting four new electric police vehicles, 24 charging stations for municipal and public use, and the first EV-only parking zones in New Jersey as a whole. So their solar-powered microgrid will set a promising precedent for the city going forward, ensuring that vehicles are emission-free from charging to driving.
The energy savings program and the microgrid proposal is being developed by Schneider Electric with adjacent plans to add more rooftop solar panels, LED lighting, and other infrastructure updates at 22 city facilities. All in all, these measures will serve, in theory, to keep public facilities running throughout emergencies with a 100% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and without the need to rely on a larger grid for their fleet alone, which is pretty big.
I think that as the EV movement continues on and gains more traction within the fleet and consumer space, we'll be able to better understand how to handle any strain on the electric grid, or even see companies pop up offering a solution to create on-site microgrids for companies to use to power their fleet.
But I would love to know, what do you think about the relationship to the electric grid that EVs currently have? Are you an electric utility that would love to share some thoughts on this? Do you think microgrids could be a potential solution? Let me know your thoughts or any questions you have. You can send me an email, tag me on LinkedIn, use the hashtag Utilimarc Fleet FYIs, or even send me a carrier pigeon if you so fancy. But before I sign off for the week, I wanted to ask you if you haven't already, if you could leave us a review or a rating on your favorite podcasting platform. It would really make my day and it would mean the world to me. It helps people, like you, find our show that haven't yet already, and also, it just really helps us out. So I would really appreciate it.
Anyways, that is all from me for today. I will speak to you again on next Friday for the final episode of our EV tech series. I'll see you there. [foreign language 00:12:38].
Hey there. It's me again. I think it's time to cue the virtual high five because you've just finished listening to another episode of the Fleet FYIs podcast. If you're already wanting more on all things fleet and vehicle technology, head over to Utilimarc.com, which is Utilimarc with a C, U-T-I-L-I-M-A-R-C.com for this episode's show notes and extra insights coming straight from our analyst to you.
That's all from me this week, so until next time, I'll catch you later.