Electric cars & batteries? Let’s not put the cart before the horse


It’s all over the news; headlines screaming: “New diesel and petrol vehicles to be banned from 2040 in UK” & “Infrastructure investment in battery technology.” Great news for health, the environment & technology innovation, but what has changed and what needs to happen now? Well it’s all about clean air and battery technology, right? Well yes this is of course true, but are we all missing rather a large point?

Electric Cars, Batteries & Uk Infrastructure Investment

First let’s set this in context. The UK definitely has an increasing issue with local particulate emissions from cars so the news regarding moving away from diesel & petrol is welcome (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40723581) . In addition, the UK has a 2050 target to reduce (carbon dioxide) CO2 emissions by 80% (see https://www.theccc.org.uk/tackling-climate-change/reducing-carbon-emissions/carbon-budgets-and-targets/)

Let’s just pause for a second and make that point again. That is a massive 80% reduction over the next 30 years at a time when everyone is projecting continued increases in energy demand. And this demand will be increased significantly by major innovations like the electrification of millions of cars.

In short, the solution to one problem will lead to another – namely, we have to reduce CO2emissions while using significantly more energy.

So how does that work?

Smart Grid, Horse & Cart

While everyone is focusing on low carbon energy generation, better storage technologies & the electrification of our vehicles, we see a rather large and fundamental part of the puzzle remaining. To coin a phrase; “it’s the Grid stupid”: the physical electrical infrastructure that is struggling with today’s levels of power distribution, let alone the forecasted levels of tomorrow.

So, just as higher volumes of traffic – including all the new electric cars – will be travelling on the “Smart Motorways” that are being built today, with their real-time data monitoring and analytics to optimise their performance, we are moving into a world where increasing levels of energy will have to travel on the electrical Grid of tomorrow.

The physical electrical infrastructure that is struggling with today’s levels of power distribution, let alone the forecasted levels of tomorrow…

Smart Control & Data Analytics

And, just like its concrete counterpart, this will require massive investment to handle the more complex energy flows. In other words – become more Smart.  And there’s the rub:  investment can only happen if the “dumb” generation & storage assets are made “smart” through real-time data, control & peer-to-per management.

In addition, if we want this smarter Grid to last the test of time, we need to ensure that these expensive Smart Grid assets are protected from failure and asset life risks through continual and automated electrical asset risk monitoring with a corresponding programme of maintenance (see https://argandsolutions.com/electrical-asset-risk-management/).

There’s no doubt that this is a bold move and its right for governments around the world to encourage R&D in both generation and storage. However, let’s make sure we don’t put the cart in front of the horse – we know from experience that it is not a good idea.

Argand Solutions solves complex energy problems. We have the tools to build the Smart Grid. We are working with companies and network operators to build the analytics & control solutions for a Smarter Grid. Give us a call to discuss your complex energy needs.