Insights September 25th, 2018
In this week’s Energy Trends – Self-Charging Robo-Cars & Decentralized Microgrids we explore self-empowerment via self-charging robo-cars, Waymo’s self-driving taxis, and a new report about the distributed grid and self-sufficient energy communities.
Read on for more details…
The next large scale commercial product upgrade for the personal EV owner on the horizon is wireless charging. This impressive technology takes ease-of-use to the next level and is currently priced about 30% higher than typical plugin charging stations.
BMW is due to start selling a charging pad for its 530e hybrid later in the year and startup Witricity has teamed up with 9 out of 10 of the largest automakers to bring their version, compatible across a range of different EVs, to the public as early as 2018.
In wireless charging (also called magnetic resonance or inductive charging) electricity is transferred from a magnetic coil on the ground to a similar coil in the car when both are aligned.
With the recently introduced personal charging pads all you have to do is drive into their garage and their vehicle will automatically begin charging. You can see how this would offer a major benefit to ride hailing companies that would be able to charge while parked or waiting in queues to pick up passengers.
Charging while driving is the holy grail of electric car technology
While wireless charging certainly offers a bump in convenience for the personal user it may indeed prove to be a game changer for not only ride hailing but also car sharing and future autonomous vehicles. This potential implementation at a massive level could have governments rethinking the way they scale up current EV charging infrastructure.
With only 20,000 electric vehicle charging stations in the US (compare that to about 125,000 gas stations), governments need to quickly accommodate the continued growth of EVs and we can expect big capital investment in charging grids (in fact, it has been estimated in the major economies that at least $55 billion will be needed). Where this money is directed has to be carefully examined if technologies like wireless charging make the most sense.
Future prospects for magnetic resonance charging grids are definitely exciting. The current potential to allow cars to not only charge while driving but also be able to return some of this energy back to the grid when at peak charge is being explored. In fact Qualcomm has already proven in-motion charging up to speeds of 70 mph in their Dynamic Electric Vehicle Charging tests.
While tearing up large strips of highway to install mass charging grids may be cost prohibitive in the future, installing short strips of track, not unlike the Qualcomm test track, may be feasible and allow for the future possibility of self-charging autonomous vehicles.
Waymo Launches Self-Driving Taxis In California
Waymo, the self-driving car company owned by Google’s parent company, is getting ready to roll out a fleet of autonomous taxis.
An exciting new report released by Dutch company Metabolic titled, “New Strategies for Smart Integrated Decentralised Energy Systems,” has the media abuzz about the potential of fully energy self-sufficient neighbourhoods and towns.
Our current system of integrating renewable energy sources, that often have an uneven seasonal distribution, with a centralized grid, has proven to be fairly inefficient and thus far quite challenging. This new report by Metabolic contends, based on a study of 4 current local microgrids, that 100% self sufficiency in power, heat and water as well as 50% in food is entirely possible.
“Charge your car when the sun is shining, and export excess electricity production to your neighbour’s heat pump” – Florijn de Graaf – Metabolic Energy Systems Engineer
The report is based on what are called intelligent energy management systems. Instead of the current model of attaching different technologies, that work apart from each other, on a centralized grid, these systems will locally balance supply and demand. Current technologies such as rooftop solar, EVs, heat pumps and batteries will transfer energy in unison cheaper and with more flexibility than current conventional grids.
In fact, one of the microgrids in the study, Ardehuizen, is already getting close to this projection. This small ecovillage of 23 “earthship” houses (so called because they are buried half in the earth) in the Netherlands has so far managed to reach 89% energy self-sufficiency.
Read the entire report at Metabolic.
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