If Europe wants to achieve its goal toward an economy with lower carbon emissions, a fundamental change in the transport sector is required. Nowadays, this sector is responsible for 25% of the total greenhouse gases across Europe.

The Electric Vehicles are becoming more and more attractive due to unending technology improvements, in terms of batteries, especially when compared to the traditional fuel engine vehicles. Nowadays, the electrical vehicle is often used worldwide as urban transport, ride sharing, goods delivery, etc. Furthermore, almost every EV producer is in a process of advanced industrialization (if not already selling it) of at least one or more hybrid/electrical vehicles. “Plug-in” version cars, besides allowing home recharge possibility giving more independency for the final consumer (and EV owner), will also create new infrastructures of batteries recharge.

Renewable energy-powered vehicles currently play an important role in lowering carbon emissions, where the European Union presents the following goals:

–          Move towards a carbon-free transport system

–          Meet its goal of reducing the greenhouse gases by 80-95% for the year 2050.

Increase in the demand for electricity

The growth in the use of electric vehicles will lead to an extra demand in the EU: the total electricity consumption in Europe of these vehicles will increase from 0.03% in 2014 to 9.5% in the year 2050.

According to the European Environment Agency (EEA) it estimated that in 2050 80% of the vehicles will be electric. To meet this goal, large amounts of extra of energy is required. In addition, this energy must be integrated in the infrastructure of the network across Europe. The question will be, therefore, how much electricity is needed, and what kind will be used to cover this additional demand for electricity and how load peaks are managed.

Until 2030, the demand of energy from the electrical vehicles will be limited and not influence in the electric system significantly. But, from 2030 awards, with the market shares going up, because of electric vehicles production, electricity demand will have a more significant impact on electrical systems in Europe.

To achieve that by 2050 80% of the vehicles are electric, a proportion between 3% and 25% of the total electricity demand will be required in EU-28, depending on the number of electric vehicles deployed in each country. On average, for the EU-28, the proportion of the total demand for electricity in 2050 will be 9.5%. This means that, an additional electrical capacity of 150 GW will be necessary for charging electric cars. This would be equivalent to 18 large nuclear stations or combined cycles and would represent 15% of the current electric system throughout the EU.

This could switch on the electrical infrastructure without coordinated growth investment. It is not possible to set a common standard for every country. Even among different countries, with a similar proportion of renewable energy, the management strategy to accommodate many electric vehicles could vary, depending on the types of renewable energy and the generation of conventional energy in each country. A clear example would be, countries with high  solar power generation capacity, for whom the peak load preferred would be during the day, these countries must apply different strategies for network and power management than countries that mainly rely on wind turbines. In the case of Spain, it has an over-capacity of 40% of the necessary electricity, so the investment would be below the European average.

In addition, an increase in the use of electric vehicles will result in:

–          Reduction of CO2 and pollutant emissions into the atmosphere

–          Higher emissions associated with electricity production.

–          Overall increase in Sulphur dioxide SO2, due to emissions from electricity generation.

Evolution of CO2 from transport in the electricity sector, Oko-Institut.

Change in the pattern of consumption?

Today nobody doubts that the oil is most commonly used in the world of energy supply (daily consumption reaches 95 mbpd) but as soon as the electric car will replace the current, the leadership of oil might be reduced, as one-fifth of the global oil consumption comes from the transport.

However, right now, there is less than 1% electric cars so there is still a lot to improve. Related to different forecasts and estimations there are different opinions from different companies.  For example, OPEC estimates that share market will stay 1% in the 2035, and on the other hand, agencies as Bloomberg, expect that the growth of the electric car to cause the next oil crisis.

Forecast of quantity of oil displaced by those electric vehicles, Bloomberg.

The main drawback is that the previous estimates were created from current technology and current prices. For that reason, the fossil fuel companies have underestimated the impact on the market of the arrival of the electric car and the increase of renewable energy. Something that will have a greater impact on their accounts in the next few years.

Breakthroughs in electric car development are expected in the coming years. This breakthroughs nan cause a rapid improvement in the development which allows to increase the market shares and take advance the expectations of the fossil fuels industry in decades.

According to the estimates of the EEA above, if in 2050 80% of vehicles were electric this would mean the replacement of about 25 million barrels of oil every day, which means the oil peak production will already be reached in 2020.

The shift towards a more sustainable energy model is on the way.

A large part of electric vehicles on the roads of Europe in the future will have implications for the generation, distribution and infrastructure of electric power. The integration of additional electricity demand faces different challenges. It is important that the sectors of road transport and Energy act work together, and that political decisions and investment of the two sectors remain integrated.

Electric vehicles are just one way in which Europe can move towards a more efficient economy of resources and carbon transport system. By simply replacing conventional vehicles by electric ones will help to reduce emissions. However, conventional vehicles will not solve other problems related to transport, such as growing traffic jams and the increase in the demand of road infrastructure. You need a systematic transformation, a shift to non-motorized transport and / or public and change the way in which we use our transportation systems. This will help to achieve the commitment of the EU towards a low carbon efficient, green and competitive economy.

Sonia Díaz | Energy Consultant

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