Enabling the electrification of large vehicle fleets


US utility National Grid has partnered with technology firm Hitachi ABB Power Grids to analyse what is needed to ensure the electrification of large vehicle fleets.

A report, The Road to Transportation Decarbonization: Understanding Grid Impacts of Electric Fleets, launched by the two companies, discusses challenges hindering electrification, what is required to accelerate the transition to EVs and the impact EV charging will have on grid networks.

With the majority of US states and businesses expected to electrify buses and delivery fleets in the coming years, under efforts to decarbonise economies, operations, and the transport sector, there is a lot of preparation and upgrades to grid networks required to ensure the energy system is able to accommodate the increase in EVs, according to the report.

The report states that proactive planning and coordination will be needed.

Coordination between utilities, fleet operators and government agencies will ensure there is adequate electric vehicle charging infrastructure and that the necessary grid upgrades are in place to avoid straining the energy network with EV charging.

Of the 19 distribution feeders studied, the demands imposed by fully electric fleets would eventually exceed feeder capacity and require upgrades.

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One of the feeders saw an increase in load due to EVs by three times and would need to be upgraded. In fact, up to 63% of the studied feeders would require an upgrade.

The impact of electrifying would mainly be felt at the substation level, with one substation seeing a 60% increase in peak load from full fleet electrification and an additional 20% load increase from full residential and public fueling electrification, according to the study.

Collaboration will also give utilities a better picture of the amount of energy capacity they need to add to their generation fleets and distribution for stability.

Moreover, collaboration enables the standardization and interoperability of various technologies to avoid failure and to ensure smart operations. For instance, vehicle-to-grid technology requires utilities to partner with automakers and EV charging solution providers, as well as demand-side management solution companies.

Anthony Allard, Executive VP and Head of North America for Hitachi ABB Power Grids, said: “Strong collaborations with key partners in the energy ecosystem, such as this study with National Grid, will help ensure that we are prepared to accelerate this transition and meet our sustainability goals, while maintaining the flexibility and resiliency of the grid.

“The shift toward electric vehicles is one of the most critical steps in the broader evolution toward a carbon-neutral energy system.”

In New York and Massachusetts, fleet vehicles make up 4% of all vehicles but around a quarter of on-road emissions, and as such converting them to electric is critical to achieving net-zero goals, states the study.

Collaborations should focus on the development of “end-to-end” approaches: transmission, distribution, and distributed resources, in addition to managed charging programmes, according to the study.

Find out more about the report.