The Straits Times: Electric vehicle trial tests power grid impact

Singapore Power this week launched a trial on the impact on charging electric vehicles on Singapore’s power grid. The Straits Times story below.

Electric vehicle trial tests power grid impact

ELECTRIC vehicles (EVs) may be good for the environment but with each one using as much energy as a small flat when being charged, will they prove to be a drain on the island’s power supply?

A ‘live’ trial is being conducted to find out.

Dubbed EVs@SP, it will involve three electric Renaults and will help Singapore Power determine what changes – if any – need to be made to the country’s infrastructure to prepare for the day when vehicles such as these become commonplace here.

The aim is to make sure that power outages do not occur as a result.

At the launch of EVs@SP yesterday, Singapore Power group chief executive Wong Kim Yin said: ‘If 4 per cent of the current car population convert to electric vehicles and they are charged at the same time, I am told the amount of power required would be the same as that required to power the whole of Ang Mo Kio.’

An electric vehicle – which runs on batteries that are juiced up from electrical mains – may also be charged at more than one location (for instance, the home or workplace), Mr Wong added. This makes forecasting and catering to demand more complicated.

The power distribution company’s trial is being carried out alongside a bigger electric vehicle test-bedding exercise that was launched last June.

That was when the Energy Market Authority and Land Transport Authority flagged off nine battery- powered cars: four Smart two-seaters from Daimler and five Mitsubishi iMiEVs.

All in, the test fleet in this bigger $20 million trial will have about 90 cars.

Singapore Power said that it will have access to findings of the bigger trial – which is to determine the robustness and economic viability of electric cars here – but its own trial focuses on the potential impact a large-scale charging of electric vehicles might have on power supply.

Industry sources believe electric vehicles will be ‘large scale’ in the not-too-distant future.

Mr Andre Roy, the managing director of Renault agent Wearnes Automotive, said Renault-Nissan aims to sell 1.5 million Renault and Nissan electric vehicles worldwide by 2016.

‘Renault estimates that by 2020, electric vehicles will account for 10 per cent of the total number of vehicles in the world,’ he said.

‘The automobile industry is at a historic turning point. Gone are the days where EVs can travel only 50km on a full charge.’

The Renault Fluence ZE and Renault Kangoo ZE, which were unveiled at Singapore Power’s event yesterday, can travel up to 185km on a full battery. And Mr Roy claimed the running cost of each is ‘as low as four cents per kilometre’.

While Singapore Power is apprehensive about the arrival of electric cars – a worry shared by utilities in other countries – these vehicles present a new revenue stream for power generation and distribution companies.

In fact, Singapore Power wanted to import and sell electric cars here in the 1990s to step up night-time power usage, which was then merely 60 per cent of day-time demand.

But now, with more homes with air-conditioning, the gap between day and night power demand has narrowed.

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