Charging times could affect EV sustainability

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This post was originally published on Sustainability Matters

Researchers from The University of Queensland will investigate whether the charging habits of electric vehicle owners could lower the cost of reaching Australia’s climate targets.

Dr Andrea La Nauze, an environmental economist from UQ’s Australian Institute for Business and Economics, said EV owners are in a unique position to support the renewable energy transition.

Australia has pledged to reach net zero by 2050, with 15% of carbon reductions expected to come from the switch to EVs.

According to La Nauze, charging an EV battery uses a lot of electricity, so it’s beneficial to charge vehicles when cheap electricity is abundant. This is especially true as electricity starts to come from more renewable sources like solar, which makes it important to avoid charging when the sun goes down and electricity is in demand.

“Our project will look at whether EV owners can be incentivised to charge their cars when the power grid has peak renewable energy,” La Nauze said.

Earlier research has found that EV owners who have rooftop solar panels are more likely to charge their cars in the middle of the day than owners without solar. They plug in when electricity is cheapest, which is what the researchers will try to mimic by offering monetary incentives for other EV owners to charge during the day.

The project will also look at the effect of automation software that can automatically charge vehicles at times of peak solar energy production.

According to La Nauze, the researchers expect that this will be a valuable tool for EV owners, helping them to use electricity when it’s cheapest.

“EVs powered by renewable energy help to lower emissions from transportation, but they can also help support grid security as we transition to renewables by using electricity at times when we have an excess,” she said.

Though the uptake of EVs in Australia is encouraging, charging at optimum times is crucial to the technology having maximum impact.

“This project will help inform policymakers, grid operators and electricity retailers on this important transition to sustainability,” La Nauze said.

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