How EVs will fast-track Australia's shift to 100% renewables | RenewEconomy

How EVs will fast-track Australia’s shift to 100% renewables

Ten million electric vehicles in Australia will provide enough storage to power the country for a day – helping fast-track the transition to 100 per cent renewable energy.


Just imagine if a politician would be so silly to suggest that a Tesla big battery was not much use because it could only power the nation for a few minutes, or a portion of South Australia for less than an episode of Ninja Warriors.

Or that you would need thousands more such batteries to have enough storage to provide electricity for the country when the sun don’t shine or the wind don’t blow.

Sound familiar? 

Well, just imagine this. Put those batteries on wheels. Inside electric vehicles.

And then measure the capacity of those batteries if there were 10 million such EVs on the road, as the Australian Energy Market Operator has imagined in its scenario planning for the future grid.

According to Tritium, an Australian company specialising in EV fast-chargers, those batteries combined would provide some 500 gigawatt hours of stored electricity.

That equals to nearly 5,000 times the size of the Tesla big battery – enough, if it was ever needed, to power the nation for a day.

Not that Tritium is suggesting that is way the country should go – a whole bunch of wind and solar, and relying on a fleet of EVs for back-up, but it makes the point that EVs have enormous potential to make better use of networks, and better use of renewables.

And the investment in these batteries would essentially be for free, because for most buyers they would be amortised in the purchase of the EV, which in itself will be a cheaper option than their current petrol or diesel powered vehicle.

“This is quite a big deal,” says Tritium’s engineering director James Kennedy, while presenting the above chart at the Renewable Cities conference in Adelaide this week.

“With that number of vehicles, that translates into a 500GWh distributed battery. It’s equivalent to 5,000 times the storage of the Tesla big battery.

“It could run the entire country for a day …. it means that we could go to 100 per cent renewable energy.”

Electric vehicle batteries are already being used in trials to provide storage and support to the grid, and BMW batteries were recently installed as back-up to a wind farm in Germany.

Kennedy says that for the battery resources to be used, they would need to inter-connected, and there would need to be bio-directional charging.

And the EV manufacturers need to be more comfortable about having the batteries used in such a way. The concern is around degradation, but continued improvements in battery efficiency in coming years should see that become less of an issue.

Kennedy says that most EVs will have way more capacity than they need on a daily basis – the average daily car trip is 30-50kms, and most EVs will have a range of at least 200kms and up to 500kms or more in some cases.

That creates a big resource that – with smart software and management – can be tapped into in a future grid that relies heavily on wind and solar, along with other storage such as solar thermal, pumped hydro, and household and grid scale batteries.

“It sounds a bit science fiction,” Kennedy says. “But we are actually quite close.”

Even if the EV battery capacity was not used to power the whole grid for a day, Kennedy says that it could be used as a resource to manage peaks, store excess renewables, and be used by employers to reduce demand charges.

“There are all kinds of possibilities,” for EV batteries to be integrated into a grid, he says.

Certainly, AEMO is looking seriously at the impact – and benefits – of EVs as it puts together its Integrated System Plan that will place a special focus on the role of distributed energy, which includes rooftop solar, battery storage, virtual power plants and EVs.

As we reported last month, AEMO recently sharply increased its scenario planning for EVs, suggesting a 50 per cent market share, or 10 million vehicles, in one scenario by 2037.

Certainly, nearly everyone barring a few die-hard conservatives predict that the EV revolution is upon us. Environment and energy minister Josh Frydenberg predicts one million EVs on the road by 2030, Beyond Zero Emissions says all new car sales will be EVs by then.

Whether it occurs slowly or quickly may depend on the availability of low cost models in Australia, and that may depend on what sort of policies are in place to encourage that.

EV uptake Norway

Tritium’s Kennedy points to the experience of Norway, where the introduction of EVs was heavily subsidised.

“It was seen as a subsidy for rich people. But what it did do was provide the volume and the price parity between an EV and an internal combustion vehicle. That subsidy is mostly disappeared, and the rate of uptake is still accelerating.”

The share of EVs on the road is now nearly equal to that of petrol cars, and of diesels, whose share has plunged from 75 per cent to 35 per cent in the last six years.

EVs, of course, will not just have benefits in supporting renewables, decarbonising the transport sector and improving air quality, they will also reduce Australia’s perilous dependence on important fossil fuels for transport.

The country’s reserves have fallen as low as 42 days. But the reality for the consumer is that means just about two weeks, possibly less, or fuel available for cars. Just imagine the queues, and the angst.

For a fact check on Tritium’s claims about EV storage, we went to Andrew Blakers, a leading energy and storage specialist from the ANU, and the author of numerous reports about the transition to 100 per cent renewables, and the role of storage.

Blakers agrees that about 450 GWh is needed to cover 100 per cent renewables, and this can be in the form of car or stationary batteries, demand management or pumped hydro (or combination thereof).

And he agrees that 10 million EVs equals about 500GWh.

But, he says, and this is a big but – the stress period in a 100 per cent renewable energy scenario is not necessarily on a hot summer afternoon (which is mostly covered by tens of gigawatts of solar PV, and where EVs could fill that backup.

The major problem shifts to a wet windless week in winter. “It’s questionable whether EV batteries will last through such a week if they are being used for transport and if they are also delivering to the grid. So, EVs can help but are not the whole solution.”



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  1. Barry Alternative Fact Covfefe 2 years ago

    V2G is an idea more then practical, how will you convince 10 million people to not drive and worse yet throw away range in an emergency?
    Its more likely they would want to keep the energy for themselves, power their own fridges and a few bulbs while the lights are out.

    The virtual power plant makes a lot more sense.

    • Charles 2 years ago

      “how will you convince 10 million people to not drive and worse yet throw away range in an emergency?”
      Quite easily – money. That’s how systems like Reposit work now. You set your price and you don’t sell until that price is being offered.
      And no-one expects people not to drive. If you need to use your car, you do. But most cars are stationary 90% of the time.

      • Barry Alternative Fact Covfefe 2 years ago

        In a national emergency people will accept a few shekels to give away something they have a dwindling resource of?

        Not likely, if you offered them bags of cash maybe. Multiply that by 10 million is a lot of cash. It just makes no sense.
        As for the 90% idle its not quite that simple, few people want less range, everyone wants more range, or at least what they left heir car with. People were not happy with the phantom energy losses in early Tesla’s the car would drain itself a few percent a day. Fortunately they fixed that but if i am at home or at work i expect the car to have the same range as when i got out of it if not more if its plugged in, not less range, especially if i want to drive home or somewhere else.
        A powerwall with a percent reserved for the grid offered at a purchase discount makes more sense, you get power, you help stabilize the grid.

        • Mark Roest 2 years ago

          Yes to buses.
          Yes also to people realizing they can make a difference for all of us by changing their habits. In this case, we all get scheduling support from our phones, we have two-way charging available at all parking spaces, and we mention it to our phones when we plan a break in our routines; they make the adjustments to the scheduling algorithms and data.

          • Barry Alternative Fact Covfefe 2 years ago

            It can work, i don’t deny that, but i doubt it will go beyond a niche product, the number of vehicles available at any given time or day is not constant, it will add battery wear, and there will be constant stories of people complaining they had an emergency come up and their car ran out of juice halfway or they didn’t realize they were losing range and it ruined their [insert situation here] and so on. This will destroy the credibility of the technology just as the frequent Tesla accident stories are out of proportion today, new technology, problems make prime time news. Tesla fire, news, hundreds of ICE fires a day, no national news. People running out of juice of their own volition by bad planning, bad press, people forgetting to fill their gas tanks by the hundreds daily, no news.
            If you have a car and work form home and don’t go out much or never travel more then a few kms then this can work. If you buy a powerwall and PW2G you will probably be happier and make more money and operators will have better availability to work with.

          • Chris Drongers 2 years ago

            There will be some negative stories about batteries running flat and stranding folks but the greater stories of lower fuel and maintenance costs will win over doubters. Remember when car engine computers came in ? Stories of cars stopping or refusing to start were common . Now those stories are comparatively rare and the risk accepted. Virtually All cars have computers now.

          • Barry Alternative Fact Covfefe 2 years ago

            I’m not saying EVs won’t take off, i am saying that V2G will likely not be much more then a curiosity or niche product. History will have to prove me wrong.

        • Charles 2 years ago

          A dwindling resource? It gets refilled every day by the sun hitting the roof of their house. Plenty of people sell their excess solar now at a very cheap rate, because they have no option if they don’t have a battery.

          Don’t want to sell? Fine, set your price unreasonably high. But price arbitrage (buying when cheap, selling when expensive) is a good way of paying off that battery system sooner.

          • Barry Alternative Fact Covfefe 2 years ago

            True enough, yet they may want to use it themselves unless they have excess. And the wear and timing issues won’t easily go away. Its still more likely stationary storage will be more convenient and predictable…

        • gasdive 2 years ago

          “Not likely, if you offered them bags of cash maybe.”
          The generators get 14 dollars per kWh. So it wouldn’t be impossible that you could be offered over a thousand dollars to dump the contents of your Tesla into the grid. Does that count as bags of cash?

          • Barry Alternative Fact Covfefe 2 years ago

            Not quite bags.

        • Greg Hudson 2 years ago

          Eventually people with hot water heaters turning on at night will re schedule them to come on at 12 noon when their solar panels are working at maximum…

          • Barry Alternative Fact Covfefe 2 years ago

            Indeed, that is one consequence of inflexible coal that will be undone eventually

      • Greg Hudson 2 years ago

        Reposit pays you $1 for a grid event… But appears to ‘earn’ up to $14 for that same event. Reposit looks like a sc%^ to me…. But I may be wrong ?
        Are there any Reposit owners here who can show how much money they make in a year (to at least offset the cost of the device) ?
        I can’t find any info on the Reposit web site…

    • Chris Fraser 2 years ago

      The network operator may have a Redox battery at my house exclusively for grid support. They can pay me rent.

      • Barry Alternative Fact Covfefe 2 years ago

        This is likely what will happen, fixed location storage available at all times.

    • Ian 2 years ago

      As much as we like a 100% renewables grid, the reality is that at times all the generators will be going at nameplate capacity and at other times all will be silent. These times will be few but will still likely occur. Wholesale prices will still follow demand. People with extended V2G storage will be able to demand the cheapest electricity and refuse to pay for unnecessary reliability . Why should these people pay for grid storage, PHES, interconnectors, standby gas generators etc etc, when they can just load up with cheap leckie when it’s on special and use it at their own leisure?

      • gasdive 2 years ago

        There will be no point when all generators are producing full nameplate for the simple reason that they’ll be commanded not to, exactly as happens now.

        • Ian 2 years ago

          Curtailment sucks, that’s zero dollars for a wind or solar opportunity, if there are a surplus of generators all muscling for the same load market you could see a real problem, every day at noon would be curtailment time. For consumers those peak generating hours represent a time to buy electricity at its cheapest. Granted grid operators may curtail some generators so their mates can benefit from higher prices, but consumers that can pick and choose when,where and how much they pay for electricity may stump these grid cartels, and create a more level playing field for other consumers. Mobile storage devices aka BEV, will create new non-grid gentailers – you can imagine shopping centres with acres of solar undercutting the grid for BEV charging, just to get people to visit their stores. Any business that wants to optimise it’s behind the meter power generation will tend to over install solar so that it can extend the time it does not need to import from the grid. That extra electricity will be either donated to the grid, used for the business’ own batteries/ demand management or made available to attract customers.

          • gasdive 2 years ago

            Curtailment doesn’t suck. It’s how the market works. The alternative is negative prices where the generators pay to have the electricity taken away. Which is what we have now because coal can’t be throttled.

          • Ian 2 years ago

            Coal can be throttled,in fact a noose is around this dinosaur fuel’s neck, it’s dispatch or die.

          • RobertO 2 years ago

            Hi Ian, Not all is lost, some of these curtailed site are looking for alternative ways to keep the energy going, one is making H2 and putting into the Natural Gas circuit, another is hoping that somebody will install another interconnector so they can send their power to another state.

          • gasdive 2 years ago

            I don’t know if it’s a clever play on words or you misunderstood because I wasn’t clear.
            Coal generators can’t be turned up and down. The closest they can do is bypass the turbine, but they still burn the same amount of coal.

          • Barry Alternative Fact Covfefe 2 years ago

            It does suck, finding a way to store it or alternative uses would be nice. Curtailment works but its wasted energy.
            There are other options, hot water with some variability, heat instead of fossil fuels, ice for later cooling, hydrogen, and of course the batteries and pumped hydro we already use…

          • Coley 2 years ago

            Wouldn’t mind seeing the coal owners being throttled-;)

          • Barry Alternative Fact Covfefe 2 years ago

            Battery storage makes a lot of sense but i suspect fixed location storage will dominate over V2G for the simple reason that people will want more charge and not less

  2. Chris Fraser 2 years ago

    EVs should be constructed for long service even if parts of it need to be changed sooner. If I have understood correctly the battery should be amortised more quickly that the EV durable parts. With adequate provision for battery recycling of course.

    • Mark Roest 2 years ago

      We are likely to see very long cycle lives within a few years.

  3. Peter F 2 years ago

    The numbers are a bit dodgy but the idea is good. I suspect that average battery size won’t increase much because with ubiquitous charge points people will start to realise that most people don’t use more than 10 kWh per day and therefore paying for and even carting around the weight of a 60-100 kWh battery for the majority of vehicles is a waste of money. The Ioniq etc are doing about 10 km/kWh so if you are using one as a commuter/shopping cart/mum’s taxi that does 14,000 km/y means it needs 30 mins a day on a 7 kW charger at home or work or 5 minutes on a 50 kW fast charger.
    The second point is that by definition not all batteries will be full at the start of the day and we certainly don’t want them all empty so in effect the available storage is probably 50% of 45 kWh x 10,000,000 =225 GWh. Across Australia with current demand + an electrified car fleet we would use about 240,000 GWh per year, or 660 GWh/day so an electrified car fleet would provide about 8 hours useful storage not a day.
    Having said that in a 100% renewable grid, worst day wind and solar and hydro will still be over 300 GWh so 80% of power could be supplied by V2G wind solar and existing hydro. Throw in some waste to energy/biomass etc for 40 GWh, and 3 m behind the meter batteries with an average capacity of 12 kWh and again 50% usable capacity gives another 15 GWh. Demand response of 10% x 4 hours another 15 GWh so using vehicle batteries certainly will reduce the demand for other storage but probably not eliminate it

  4. Mark Roest 2 years ago

    If you have substantial redundancy between vehicle-based storage and stationary storage for both charging vehicles and operating buildings, you eliminate the problems, and very likely can handle a week-long storm, if you actually adapt to the circumstances and have done a good job of making the entire economy much more energy-efficient. Your also save lots more money.

    The stationary batteries are to hold energy from the sun and the wind until it is needed. It is likely that the entire nation is not simultaneously without wind or sun; instead, local conditions hold weather in place some of the time, and there are breaks in the weather elsewhere, and the variation allows support to be provided to the area that’s stuck under the shower the whole time.

    • Rod 2 years ago

      “making the entire economy much more energy-efficient”
      That is the missing piece of the puzzle at the moment. We (Australia) still waste a lot of energy and by association, money.

    • Ian 2 years ago

      The idea of robust interconnectors joining widely dispersed areas to even out the vagaries of demand and weather is pretty obvious and seems better suited to high wind dominance of the grid. With the pure solar grid , having large geographical distribution is probably not that useful. The money would be better spent on storage and demand management. In Australia, you don’t have to travel far inland to find a very consistent daytime solar resource, that’s probably the same in California.

      • Alastair Leith 2 years ago

        Bucky Fuller was onto this decades ago, though possibly was an over-believer in transmission given the breakthroughs in local embedded generation and storage.

    • wideEyedPupil 2 years ago

      The problem in Australia, Mark, is that the cost of interconnectors that can run enough power to supply an entire state/region are hugely expensive and we don’t have that scale of interconnectors in Australia (650 MW VIC to SA) . In fact the SWIS in SW WA is an island grid and a long way from the other nearest grids.

      Thin pipes with storage at each end works fine for a day or two of storage to balance, but providing enough power to run a grid like the SWIS during seven days of prolonged winter wind drought with PV at 10% of their full sun output would take 2,000+ MW to remove all thermal fuelled generation. Power2gas/liquid may come to save the day… certainly PHES and batteries are uneconomic to do 30 days of heroics and nothing for the rest of the year.

  5. Ian 2 years ago

    In the early days of mobile phones, you had a device that could make phone calls on the go, which was great, without much added cost we ended up with the crazy convenient all purpose things we have today. Well, that’s where the car is heading. Give it added functuality and there is no stopping the technology.V2G capability is only the start of this process.

  6. Alan S 2 years ago

    ‘Just imagine if a politician would be so silly to suggest that a Tesla big battery was not much use because it could only power the nation for a few minutes.’ You don’t have to imagine much, just check the media leading up to the installation at Hornsdale.
    The worry is that these people not only make decisions affecting energy policy, they are allowed to vote.

  7. Jo 2 years ago

    I like the “bio-directional charging”

    • Ian 2 years ago

      Yes, this may be a Freudian slip, but the concept is far greater than grid-feeds-BEV-feeds-grid. It can be tightly integrated with a home solar and storage system to give a more organic advantage for
      1. standby storage for home, for grid, for neighbourhood mini grid.
      2. mobile electricity transfer/ alternative access to grid for homeowners ie those that are annoyed enough to quit the grid or those that are rural or for times when the grid is down
      3. generator substitute for tradies and campers etc
      4. timeshifting of rooftop solar from daytime production to nighttime use
      5 timeshifting from sunny day solar production to multi cloudy day use.
      6. Taking advantage of Cheap,dirty, intermittent grid electricity – if this was ever offered.

      This last point needs discussing: in a future with 10 million electric cars, solar ubiquitous, wind power on every hill, batteries as cheap as macdonald’s fries. There may be very little need for an ultra reliable grid. People will not want to pay for extreme grid precision, something rather intermittent but very cheap would do fine. We already have something like this with the tariff 31 or 33.

      • Greg Hudson 2 years ago

        IMO if you have a decent V2G option, there should be no reason to have home storage as well as the battery in your car. e.g. Tesla PowerWall 2 holds 13kWh (approx) while a Model S holds between 60 and 100 kWh.
        I really don’t see the need for both. The vehicle ‘should’ be able to supply power to a house for those times when the sun is not shining… Why is this not the case already ? Because Tesla wants to sell more PowerWalls (even when supply is limited). Makes no sense to me.

  8. Jo 2 years ago

    The only problem: The government needs a new cash cow with the income form petrol tax fading away. – expect to see biased action from government against EV for that very reason.

    • Ian 2 years ago

      The tax question is a puzzle, when EV numbers are vanishingly low as they are now, there is no problem, when all vehicles are electric, clearly a tax on liquid fuels will net no government tax income. I am sure the same diabolical economists that thought to tax oil in the first place will come up with a new tax.

      What do you think? Loss of fuel tax vs poor foreign balance of payments and decreased national security. It may not seem obvious now, but the huge number of shiny new buildings in the Persian gulf are financed by the world’s commuters. If that money stayed at home and circulated amongst domestic energy companies, etc, then those same shiny buildings or equivalent investment will occur in our own cities. Plenty of cream for the government to skim.

    • nakedChimp 2 years ago

      They just move from fuel tax to miles-driven or some flat-rate tax.
      Easy peasy.

    • hydrophilia 2 years ago

      Seems only right that users of the roads pay at least something toward upkeep, thus fuel taxes. We’ll see what happens as conversion continues.

  9. oakleighpark 2 years ago

    When is the energy available via retrofit, inherent in the existing building stock, going to become a factor in these discussions. It about time that we have a new paradigm for the design of the 21st grid with energy efficient buildings as the core grid component.

    • solarguy 2 years ago

      Agreed, there are some of us working on this very problem.

  10. Ian 2 years ago

    Has anyone thought of this idea: V2V. The ability of a BEV to charge another BEV. Scenarios would be such as these: A car runs out of charge 50 km out of town
    1. A second BEV stops to help and donates/sells some charge.
    2. The driver calls RACQ for help and they dispatch a charge truck.
    3. The driver phones Uber-charge and a nearby Uberite responds to impart a top-up.
    A farmer plows his field some ways from the charge station using his Tesla tractor. He does not want to drive this all the way back to recharge but uses his BEV Ute to transport charge to the tractor.
    A fisherman on the weekend goes camping, tows his electric boat behind his electric camper and uses the vehicle to recharge his boat each night.

    • Charles 2 years ago

      Yes, Sono Motors has a feature like this! (Of course, they are a small startup, so future plans are speculative, but they have physically built a couple of concept models) –

    • RobertO 2 years ago

      Hi Ian, People already do this in a small way. My wife and two daughters borrowed my duel port charger so that they can charge the three iphones, one i pad and one game console (and maybe one internet device). Yes it is an ICE car but the principle is the same only you need larger battery and larger cables.

  11. Shilo 2 years ago

    You better make it 11 to 12 million cars, to allow for losses getting the power out of the cars.
    So the people with the cars will pay lets say $10 for the power and get back what when they deliver between 80 and 90% of it back, because thats all that will convert.
    All sounds rather expensive and complicated.
    But hey, anything can be done.

  12. Ren Stimpy 2 years ago

    When the EV disruption is near to completion – ie. at the top section of the S-curve – there will be a very large number of battery manufacturing plants now looking for new markets. Given that batteries reduce in cost by half every three years, it should be possible to supply as much stationary battery storage (powerwalls and grid scale batteries) as in the entire EV fleet, in just 3 years. It’s two disruptions for the price of one!

    Add to this the predicted shrinking market for vehicles (predicted by the TaaS modeling where there will be a lower number of vehicles by an order of magnitude and a higher utilisation rate per vehicle by an order of magnitude).

    Added to that is peoples’ reluctance to give up available range of their vehicle for just a few shekels (as another commented said) and particularly in times when the grid most needs that energy.

    V2G is more or less not practical and won’t be a long term requirement IMO.

  13. solarguy 2 years ago

    Blakers sum it nicely at the end. EV storage won’t be the answer. What we need to concentrate on is energy efficient housing, buildings and appliances. Interconnection between some regions will need to be stronger and or new ones built.

  14. Peter Smith 2 years ago

    Re the “wet windless week in winter” – we are gifted with such a large area of land that we can be sure that, while winter applies everywhere (although not so much in Brisbane and points north), the chances of it being wet and windless simultaneously throughout the country are infinitesimal. All we need is lots of interconnections.
    I am not familiar with the existing grid connections and whether they have adequate capacity, but I am pretty sure we will need a connection between the WA grid and the rest of the country.
    Sounds expensive, but not impossible.

  15. Alastair Leith 2 years ago

    “As we reported last month, AEMO recently sharply increased its scenario planning for EVs, suggesting a 50 per cent market share, or 10 million vehicles, in one scenario by 2037.”

    AEMO not Tony Seba fans then, yet 😉

  16. Alastair Leith 2 years ago

    “The major problem shifts to a wet windless week in winter. “It’s questionable whether EV batteries will last through such a week if they are being used for transport and if they are also delivering to the grid. So, EVs can help but are not the whole solution.” ”

    This is exactly what the modelling by SEN has found on the SWIS network. Long periods of belched network in winter that need a big reserve capacity of something other than wind and solar to cover economically (e.g. seven days wind drought with heavy cloud, three days wind, four days wind drought). Biofuels/biomass (always risky given the propensity of governments Labor and Liberal/National to turn a blind eye to native forest clear felling) power2gas, power2liquid-fuel are obvious places to hope will rise to meet these challenges.

  17. Ivan Doblas 2 years ago

    Fernando Martínez Gómez Tejedor seeks people who can help him in the construction of a machine that uses alternative energy, the project is financed, only people are missing. The goal is to help everyone who needs it, do you dare? Send an email to [email protected]

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