Europe's transition to electric vehicles (EV) risks stalling as countries struggle with high energy prices and runaway inflation. While wholesale energy prices may have peaked, developing strategies to reduce energy usage and cut electric vehicle operating costs is critical for business productivity and profit.
While EVs are cheaper to own and operate over a lifetime, many firms are paying premium prices for energy when lower-cost (and sustainable) alternatives are available. The problem is that the energy market fluctuates – often hour-by-hour – with the costs rising and falling according to demand and supply. It's a complicated system becoming even more volatile by the increasing integration of sustainable energy sources.
To reduce EV charging costs, fleet managers must proactively monitor and manage energy usage to develop the most cost-effective vehicle charging strategy. We’ll explain how doing so in an automated way, can both bring significant business benefits and unburden the fleet operator.
Infrastructure under pressure
The growing number of passenger and commercial EVs has intensified the demand on our energy grids, putting essential infrastructure under increased pressure. A recent study established that Europe's current grid could deliver the power needed for up to 100 million vehicles – an impressive figure, but still less than half the estimated number of EVs that will be on the roads.
The EU’s target of ensuring that all new vehicles being net zero by 2035 could affect the stability of our power grids. To cope with growing and fluctuating demand, Europe’s energy grids will need to become smarter and incorporate more sustainable sources, says the EU’s Joint Research Centre (JRC). Even then, domestic and commercial customers will likely face higher – and more variable – energy prices.
While new energy storage solutions and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) offer potential, cutting EV charging costs is a strategic priority for fleet operators today and in the medium-term future. To address these challenges, a suite of innovative solutions has emerged: Load Management, Energy Management, and Virtual Power Plant services. The combination of these tools will offer faster (with a limited grid connection via Load Management), more sustainable (with Energy Management) and cheaper charging (with Virtual Power Plant service).
Heliox Smart Charging Ecosystem
Load management systems charge vehicles as fast as possible within available power limits. These power limits can be determined by a relatively small grid connection, or a power cable limiting the charging power. Available charging power is distributed equally amongst occupied charging sockets. Based on either historical or real-time measurement data, the demand of non-EV appliances is analyzed so to determine which amount can be distributed amongst the chargers. This way, available grid connection power is utilized in the best possible way.
Energy management systems (EMS) use data provided by your charging stations and the grid into a comprehensive system that puts the fleet manager in control. As well as day-to-day operations, an EMS can inform and influence planning decisions, including charging infrastructure, that are essential to fleet scaling.
Potential charging cost reductions are 33% throughout Europe.
Virtual Power Plant
Virtual power plants (VPPs) are networks of distributed energy resources, such as renewable energy sources like solar and wind, energy storage systems, and controllable loads like electric vehicles. VPPs can participate in energy markets by virtually combining these decentralized assets into a single entity. Moreover, using bidirectional EV chargers, VPPs allow electric fleet owners and operators to make money by selling their excess energy back to the grid. This can help them to offset the cost of charging their electric vehicles and reduce their overall energy costs.
Potential charging cost reductions are 60% in The Netherlands and Belgium. Expansion to other European countries is expected in 2024.
Commercial customers can now become active participants in a range of energy and congestion markets that, if used intelligently, can reduce consumption costs.
The most popular is the day-ahead energy market, where fleet operators lock in electricity prices. Users can see the next day’s hourly electricity prices, enabling fleet managers to fix prices, optimize charging schedules, and reduce operational costs.
Like all markets, prices fluctuate based on predicted demand and available supply. By accessing the day-ahead energy market, fleet operators can anticipate the most cost-effective times to charge their vehicles by integrating this information into intelligent charging solutions.
When combined with smart chargers, load management tools, and energy management systems, it can provide greater control and reduce variability for fleet operators. With the comprehensive charging infrastructure, fleets can completely automate their charging processes, ensuring they always use energy at the lowest prices.
The day ahead market is one of a range of innovative systems that aim to optimize energy flow and reduce grid pressure, including the intraday market, imbalance market, reserve market, and solutions such as GOPACS.
It can be a confusing system to navigate, but we can help. Heliox works with some of Europe's most progressive fleet operators, helping them manage the transition to EVs while controlling costs. In one example, we worked with a German bus operator and enabled them to cut annual energy costs by 27% by using advanced energy market strategies combined with our charging infrastructure.
In another example, using the Netherlands’ Passive Imbalance market, we demonstrated how an operator with 20 vehicles charging a 200kWh battery with a 50kW charger on a 1MW grid connection could save up to 60%. Using the Day-Ahead market, the same operator could save up to 32%.
Optimize your charging strategy and reduce costs with Heliox
Europe is making progress towards a cleaner, EV-driven future. Reducing charging costs across Europe frees up resources that operators can invest in EV technologies –accelerating their adoption. Every new EV replacing a fossil-fuel-powered vehicle improves air quality and reduces carbon emissions.
In sum, Heliox can provide expert advice, guidance, and support to help you take the next step in your journey to EVs. Our market-leading technology can be integrated into your business. We'll support you in developing a cost-effective charging strategy that delivers benefits from day 1.
Would you like to know more? Contact our energy management experts here.