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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Tornare

Electricity Shortage - The end of the Electric Car?

Electricity could be lacking this winter. After the soaring price of the megawatt-hour (MWh), possible power cuts are expected. Saving measures are being put in place. Is this the end of the electric car?

Carequest car broker Switzerland, Swiss electricity

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has put pressure on European energy supplies. As a result, ageing infrastructures are not able to compensate for shortfalls. Switzerland is no exception. With its neighbours facing power shortages, it is itself in a complicated situation, which could result in power cuts during the winter consumption peaks. In addition, an overly dry end of the year would limit hydroelectric production capacities.

In this context, it seems legitimate to question the role of the electric car. Is it part of the solution to the problem or, on the contrary, does it reinforce it?


The electric car - a threat?

Increase in consumption

Currently, electric cars only require 0.3% of Switzerland's electricity production, according to the Federal Statistical Office. However, the energy transition aims to increase their proportion. If the entire Swiss car fleet were converted, national electricity consumption would increase by 15 to 20%. In reality, the figure is likely to be somewhat lower, partly due to technological improvements.


Decrease in production

As mentioned above, the growth of the electric car fleet will inevitably lead to an increase in national consumption. Many countries are planning to phase out nuclear power and move away from fossil fuels. Although such a transition is virtuous, it leaves a lot open as to how to compensate for the lost TWh. In Switzerland, the shutdown of nuclear power plants represents a reduction of 22 TWh or about a third of total production. Coupled with an increase in consumption, this represents a real challenge.



The electric car - a chance?

Energy storage

Electric cars store energy using batteries. When connected to a bi-directional terminal, they allow energy to be fed back into the system, thus balancing production and consumption. However, this is currently only possible when the cars are connected to the grid and therefore parked. In addition, the proportion of bi-directional systems is still relatively low.


Lower aggregate energy consumption

The question of the carbon footprint of electric cars remains disputed. However, despite an increase in electricity consumption, the overall result seems positive compared to internal combustion engines. Also, petrol-powered cars are not immune to electric shortages. Both petrol stations and refineries need this energy.


Only peak consumption is problematic

The overall electricity supply is not the problem. In fact, it lies in the consumption peaks. Electric cars can manage their charging autonomously and thus avoid these peaks. Moreover, the average daily distance travelled in Switzerland represents only a small percentage of the range of today's cars. They can therefore last several days without recharging.


Autonomous systems

Some property owners are already now almost self-sufficient in terms of their electricity supply. The use of solar panels and batteries makes it possible to detach from the national grid. Electric cars contribute to this by providing energy storage. Bi-directional charging stations ensure that maximum use is made of them.



Conclusion

As the number of electric cars increases, consumption will logically rise. Thus it will be necessary to produce more or reduce consumption in other sectors. However, cars are also part of the solution by becoming an integral component of the grid. Current technology only allows this to be done to a limited extent. It is, therefore, necessary to invest in innovation and infrastructure to take full advantage of this.


 

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