‘Grid in Belgium not ready for fast charging at home’
According to Damien Ernst, energy specialist at the University of Liège, 90% of newly sold cars should be electric by 2030. This is possible because the price of batteries will drop in the years to come. However, this poses problems in terms of energy supply and the grid. In Belgium, it’s simply not ready for massive fast charging at home yet.
Gas power plants
In theory, gas-fired power stations can offer the necessary power, but also the distribution network must support all these electric cars. If too many vehicles charge on the 400-volt grid, it might lead to a blackout on the local low-voltage network.
“It is mandatory to integrate electric cars into the distribution network. Depending on the location, we have to make sure that the cars recharge at the right time. In some rural areas all cars can’t be charged at the same time and intelligent solutions will be necessary. Areas where the power grid isn’t strong enough for fast charging stations are not yet mapped and network adaptations will be necessary”, Ernst continues.
Modifications at home
Customers with a faster home charger (10 to 20 kWh) must ask a connection upgrade from their network operator. This usually requires a study at the cost of the applicant. This upgrade is usually possible on the condition that not too many aspiring EV drivers ask an upgrade in the same area. This also requires a new connection (cable, meter, switch board) and a corresponding inspection of the entire electrical home installation, which often costs several thousands of euros, apart from the wallbox itself.
Solar and extra home battery
Solar panels can be interesting to charge an electric car, but with the arrival of the smart electricity meter, one must consume the electricity at the time it is produced (read: when the sun is shining). Since electric cars are on the road during the day and are recharged mainly in the evening and at night, you also need an extra home battery to store the solar energy during the day. This also pushes up the TCO (total cost of ownership) of electric vehicles, which makes the economic reality moderately interesting.
500.000 electric cars are possible
Marie-Christine Marghem, Federal Minister of Energy (MR), is more positive. She estimates that between 200.000 and 500.000 electric vehicles could at most be supported by the current network. According to Statbel, only 9.244 cars were registered in Belgium in 2018. But the number is rising quickly. “It is clear that over 500.000 electric vehicles, without intelligent charging technologies, network adaptations will be necessary”, Damien Ernst adds.
Different charging modes
“We estimate that 1 million electric vehicles will result in an extra consumption of 3,6 TWh/year, or 3 to 4% of Belgium’s total consumption. This increase in consumption is acceptable, from the point of view of energy, with perhaps even a beneficial effect on the balance of the networks, via vehicle batteries”, says Bérénice Crabs, spokesperson for Synergrid (federation of network management).
“However, different charging modes (slow, at the office or quickly, along the road) have a different impact on the power grid. If everyone charges at the same time we are facing network problems.”