Electric vehicles – a future player on the energy market?

Woman plugging an electric vehicle charging cable into an electric car for charging

ENGIE Laborelec and ENGIE’s business unit “Global Energy Management” launched a pioneering project with the potential to transform energy markets. By aggregating fleets of electric vehicles (EVs) and implementing a smart charging system (SMATCH), engineers have been able to leverage the capacity of car batteries, becoming a player on the electricity market.

The electric mobility is growing rapidly. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) the stock of electric passenger cars increased in 2018 by 63% to 5.1 million units, with similar year-on-year growth rates in 2017 and 2016. Parallel to the growth of EVs sales, the charging infrastructure is evolving, reaching globally 5.2 million charging points in 2018, following an estimation by the IEA. As a result of this market expansion, it is necessary to anticipate as of today the impact of vehicle batteries on the electricity grid.

Recharging occurs often at the same time (at night, at home, or during the day at the office) and can negatively affect the power grid by clogging or destabilizing it. This is particularly significant given that electric vehicles are used only 5% at a time.

Artificial intelligence at the heart of smart charging solutions

ENGIE Laborelec drew on this observation to develop SMATCH, a smart charging solution that optimizes vehicle charging using artificial intelligence. SMATCH combines available energy and power data (solar panels, stationary batteries, buildings, etc.) and the needs of users to define, for example, the best time to recharge cars. "Managing these power demands will help reduce the infrastructure costs associated with charging electric cars and facilitate the use of local energy production," explains Arthur Andruszkiewicz, a senior member of the project team. "SMATCH also offers grid support services. All these optimizations represent a positive impact on the portfolio.”

Based on this innovative solution, which has already entered the commercialization phase, ENGIE Laborelec's Electric Mobility R&D department and ENGIE's Business Unit “Global Energy Management”, which manages the Group's portfolio of assets in electricity, natural gas, environmental products and global commodities, have taken another step forward. Engineers have developed a system that addresses the enormous potential in terms of energy and power that electric vehicle batteries represent. If we consider one or more fleets of electric vehicles, they become a real player in the energy market.

Energy markets, at crossroads between production, consumption and optimization

This energy potential is then managed by ENGIE's experts, who offer it on the energy markets to:

Minimizing the cost of recharging

Based on the production and consumption forecasts on D-1, the energy price movements of the following day are taken into account, as well as the energy needs of the electric car fleet. The system optimizes the ideal load profile based on these prices. This consumption will then be offered on the energy market. The following day SMATCH will check the recharging of vehicles to align as much as possible with the consumption committed on the energy market and thus benefit from the best rates.

Providing network services

Electric cars with recharging controlled by SMATCH are also offered as a solution to maintain the balance between the transport and distribution networks. This can be done either by releasing energy into the grid if demand is strong, or by consuming electricity if the supply is too high. This offered flexibility makes it possible to support the network in the event of instability (frequency or voltage regulation). Depending on these forecasts, the fleet is then compensated based on the support it provides to the network. This service can be delivered at company level, in an industrial zone or on an even larger scale, a national network.

"We tested the pilot in the eight terminals at the ENGIE Laborelec site and the results are both technically convincing and commercially promising," concludes Arthur Andruszkiewicz. "Since September 2019, the solution has been extended to several sites. With this larger fleet of vehicles, the project has entered a new phase of development.”

“The transport is the only sector which increased its carbon emissions in the last 30 years in Europe. Providing solutions that enable to smooth the integration of both electric vehicles and renewables in the power system are thus crucial to catch-up with a zero-carbon pathway. This is precisely what we do with SMATCH through this collaboration,” highlights Jérôme Glass, Business Developer in Energy Transition Services (ETS) of ENGIE’s business unit “Global Energy Management”.

We'd be delighted to answer your questions.

Get in touch with our expert: Jérôme Glass, Business Developer Energy Transition Services