EVs and Load Balancing Explained

Find answers to questions like, how do EVs and load balancing go together? Why should EV owners be concerned about load balancing? And how can energy companies leverage EVs to increase grid resilience?

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California’s Pacific Gas & Electric company already has 500,000 electric vehicles (EVs) in its territory. By 2030, the number is expected to reach three million. The numbers illustrate indicate how EVs’ rise can lead to massive increases in electricity demand. However, their charging flexibility provides energy companies with unique opportunities to improve grid resilience and make optimal use of existing resources.

Much of the reason is down to how EVs and load balancing go hand in hand.

Charger attached to an EV.

Leveraging the upsides of EVs

EVs have multiple benefits for the grid. The list includes:

  • Smart charging: EVs charge during off-peak hours when electricity demand is low and rates are cheaper. This helps flatten demand peaks and optimise the use of renewable energy.
  • Enhanced energy storage: EV batteries can act as dynamic storage systems, or “batteries on wheels,” absorbing excess energy when supply exceeds demand and releasing it when needed.
  • Demand response: Reducing EV charging speed or stopping and restarting EV charging to prevent overloads and maintain stable energy supply.
  • Utilising renewable energy: Charging EVs directly from renewable sources like solar panels during the day, reducing reliance on non-renewable power plants during peak times.
  • Buffering the grid: Managing charging through smart software to accommodate changes in energy production and consumption.

Each of these benefits applies to load balancing scenarios.

Energy flexibility icons

What is load balancing?

Load balancing is part of load management. It focuses on finding ways to “even out” energy use.

If everyone started charging their EVs when coming home while also using energy to cook the evening meal, it would put enormous stress on electricity production and the energy grid.

Energy companies and their customers have strong incentives to avoid such a situation, as it leads to higher energy prices, using fossil fuel backup generations, and potentially expanding the grid’s capacity through expensive construction projects. The associated prices would affect energy companies and customers alike.

Balancing the energy load and need through strategies like delaying EV charging can address the abovementioned issues.

Network of energy grid resources

EV and load balancing categories

It should be noted that EVs lead to many different types of load balancing opportunities. Some of the most common types include:

  • Incentivised load balancing: EV owners are incentivised to charge their vehicles at off-peak times through incentives from energy companies or differing energy prices.
  • Managed EV charging: Energy companies manage individual EV charging on behalf of customers. Customers are often incentivised to take part in such programs through incentives.
  • Managed smart charge networks: EVs are grouped in clusters, and their charging can be controlled to respond to changes in energy production and delivery.
  • Active (or dynamic) load balancing: The charging of one or more EVs is actively adjusted to local energy demand and production down to the individual building level.

In each category, EVs help provide load balancing in different ways, but all support increased grid resilience and better use of available resources.

Preparing energy grids for EVs image

Why EV owners should care about load balancing

The effect of EVs and load balancing depends on how many participate in different initiatives. This, in turn, makes it imperative for energy comapneis to find ways to engage EV owners. The good news is that the initiatives are good news for EV owners. EV owners stand to benefit from load balancing in a range of ways, including:

  • Grid Stability: Maintained grid stability that prevents overloads during peak demand periods. This contributes to a more resilient and reliable power grid, which translates into more stable EV charging.
  • Optimised charging experience: Minimised wait times and maximised charging efficiency by dynamically adjusting charging rates and priorities while accommodating user preferences and schedules.
  • Cost efficiency: Reduced operational costs associated with EV charging and energy infrastructure and opportunities to take full advantage of differing electricity prices.
  • Sustainability: Better integration of renewable energy sources and reduced need for fossil fuelled peak demand energy generators.
  • Improved battery health: Help to avoid rapid, high-power charging when unnecessary that can help prolong the lifespan of EV batteries.