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Challenges that hold back public adoption of electric vehicles and solutions to help overcome them

Like many countries in the world, Singapore has recently accelerated its race to go green, and shifting the entire nation to electric cars is one of its key strategic pillars. By 2040, the government aims to phase out diesel and petrol cars altogether. It has already started to offer rebates to make the purchase of electric vehicles more affordable but the ability to support adoption of electric vehicles is tied to available charging points.


As part of their efforts to deploy 60,000 EV charging points by 2030, the Land Transport Authority of Singapore (LTA) recently launched their EV Common Charger Grant. This grant is aimed at increasing the overall number of electric vehicle (EV) charging points in Singapore, specifically targeting non-landed private residences (NLPRs) such as condominiums and private apartments.


Tackling the increased demand for electricity


The grant is limited to 1 per cent of residential carpark spaces of each NLPR development but we will need more EV charging points to spur adoption. However, installing more EV charging points is no simple matter as existing power capacities of buildings are not designed for vehicular charging, placing limits on the amount of power that can be drawn in a particular location. If this fundamental issue is not addressed, it can lead to major issues such as power overloads and outages.


There are two solutions to solving this increased demand for power that may exceed what the existing building infrastructure can supply. We can overhaul the electricity supply to increase capacity, which is capital intensive and not practical for most building owners, or we can rely on a load management system that helps distribute surplus electricity to avoid a power outage while charging vehicles.


A load management system helps to resolve this issue by ensuring that critical services such as lighting, air-conditioning and lift operation are adequately powered, before assigning surplus electricity among the active charging points.


The need for smart charging points


Before a load management system can be implemented, building owners will need to install smart charging points. Compared to the non-smart charging points, the smart charging points can collect usage information, relay it back to the load management system and make adjustments on the fly to prevent it from overloading the grid.


The ability for a charging point to make adjustments on the fly is critical as power consumption is not linear and is dependent on times of the day. For example, a residential building’s consumption will peak in the evening whilst a commercial building’s consumption will peak during the day.


In addition to these functions, the smart charging points also enable the implementation of a booking and billing system that will help building owners recoup the cost of installing and maintaining these EV charging points.


A great example is the implementation of a charging site in Portugal that consists of 18 smart charging points, connected to a management system that can reduce the power available to EVs when the building’s energy consumption peaks.


The electric distribution system operator of mainland Portugal, E-REDES, managed reduce their investment in electrical infrastructure with the smart charging system while ensuring that they can keep up with the increased uptake of electric vehicles.


Moving forward, they will also introduce an app that can help users track available smart charging stations which are connected to the management system.


Leveraging on renewable energy sources via microgrids


Once they have setup a load management system with multiple smart charging points, building owners can look towards integrating a microgrid to supplement their existing infrastructure. Microgrids are self-contained energy networks that can help to supplement an existing electrical network with extra power via energy generated on site.


In Singapore’s context, the energy generated should come from a renewable source such as solar power. With the government spear heading projects such as SolarNova, that aims to outfit HDB flats with solar panels, building owners can follow in their footsteps towards Singapore’s goal of becoming a green nation.


Building owners can tap on the most cost-effective energy source at any moment by switching to the cheapest option and some can also explore selling excess solar energy generated back to the main grid.


Stepping into the future with Vehicle to Grid (V2G)


V2G technology allows energy transfer between the batteries within an EV and the power grid. This is more sophisticated than a simple one-way charging of EVs and will require a smart charging point setup together with a load management system.


EVs that are parked and connected to a smart charging station can then divert the energy in their batteries back to the main grid whenever it is needed, thus creating a virtual power plant made up of connected EVs.


With a well-functioning V2G landscape, the general populace will be empowered to play a more active role in Singapore’s energy system, and we can then accommodate larger capacities of renewable energy. V2G technology holds potential to unlock new business models for building owners and drivers.


While this is still a novel concept in Singapore, the Energy Market Authority (EMA) is already looking into it and SP Group is even conducting trials to verify the possibility of implementing V2G as it is a "win-win" for both the electricity system and EV owners if proven viable.


The holy grail of V2G is provide EV car owners with the opportunity to be paid for providing energy to the grid when their vehicle is parked, fully charged and not in use.


The Parker Project in Denmark was the first commercial V2G project in the world that sparked the possibility of this idea going commercial and is taken into consideration by EMA as well.


Towards a future-ready EV ecosystem


Over the next decade, our energy and transportation systems will be reshaped towards a greener net-zero future. It is imperative that we explore innovative solutions to create an efficient, resilient, sustainable, and future-ready EV ecosystem for Singapore.


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