Electric vehicles have become the hottest item in the market and sales are growing year after year. This is the most fundamental transformation in road transport; however, concerns do exist. Can the US grid sustain the increased demand for electricity and how can smart grids help in this direction? Can we limit the exposure of charging stations and vehicles to cyber-attacks?
It is not an exaggeration to say that EVs are advertisers’ hottest items. The advertisements at the Super Bowl of 2022 appeared to capture this trend. Two goods have emerged as the most popular: cryptocurrencies and electric vehicles. According to a forecast by the International Energy Agency (IEA), electric car sales are expected to reach an all-time high in 2022.
EVs sales are increasing year after year
The primary technology to decarbonize the road transport sector, which accounts for 16% of world emissions, is electric automobiles. In recent years, the sale of electric vehicles has expanded exponentially, along with their range, model availability, and performance. IEA predicts that 13% of new automobiles sold in 2022 will be electric passenger vehicles.
Despite supply chain delays caused by the epidemic, electric vehicle sales reached a new high in 2021. Compared to 2020, sales nearly doubled to 6.6 million, resulting in a total of 16.5 million electric vehicles on the road. China had the biggest sales in 2021 with 3,3 million, followed by Europe with 2,3 million, up from 1,4 million in 2020. The market share of electric vehicles in the United States doubled to 4.5% in 2021, with 630,000 units sold.
The increase in EV sales is pushing investments in vehicle electrification, which accounted for nearly 65% of total investments in the transportation industry in 2021. Recent IEA research indicates that this proportion will climb to over 74% by 2022. In addition to automobiles, investments are being made in the electrification of buses and heavy-duty equipment. Wood Mackenzie predicts that EVs will account for around 6% of passenger vehicle sales in North America in 2022, 26% in 2030, 63% in 2040, and 78% in 2050.
The electric grid availability question
That is a dramatic shift in the energy system, and the most fundamental transformation in road transportation since the advent of the automobile. It will certainly pose new issues for electrical supply. In addition to an increase in demand, the increasing electrification is anticipated to result in new patterns of consumption throughout the day, new pressures on the grid, and new problems regarding cost allocation and equity.
Currently, the impact of electric cars and trucks on energy networks is minimal, and there is sufficient excess capacity to accommodate the rapid expansion of EVs. Based on the average amount of electricity used by EVs, the entire fleet of around 2.5 million EVs in the United States utilizes less than 0.5 percent of the total energy produced in 2021.
The transition to electric automobiles and trucks will not disrupt the U.S. power infrastructure, according to energy experts. As the use of EVs increases, so does the national electrical supply: in 2022, solar power will account for nearly half of the new U.S. electric generating capacity. In Norway, where electric vehicles account for two-thirds of new car sales, hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles have been integrated into the grid with minimal to no negative effects. While electric vehicle adoption has increased electricity consumption, Norway is a net exporter of clean energy.
Multiple scientists have elaborated on how EVs can be integrated into power networks to the benefit of communities, vehicle owners, and utility shareholders. Many owners of electric vehicles charge their vehicles at home overnight, and EVs can operate as rolling batteries when they are not in use, storing excess energy generated during off-peak hours such as overnight or during the middle of the day and returning it when demand spikes.
Demand for electricity can also be regulated by smart charging. If a commuter’s vehicle is plugged in overnight, smart charging can guarantee that it only draws electricity when demand is low, so decreasing grid strain. These types of grid services will reduce power prices by up to 13 percent, assist grid operators in coping with unforeseen decreases in electricity supply, and compensate EV owners for converting their vehicles into a distributed energy resource.
Now is the time for coordinated planning on grid extension and enhancements, including digital technologies to permit two-way communication and pricing between electric vehicles and grids, so that EVs can become a resource for grid stability as opposed to a challenge.
The security reliability question
EVs’ reliability, however, necessitates consideration of cybersecurity-related threats. Numerous academic works and lab reports from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) emphasize these dangers. In recent research, Sandia National Laboratories stated, “As the United States converts to transportation electrification, cyberattacks on vehicle charging could affect practically all of the nation’s vital infrastructure.”
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and the Public Building Service (PBS) are both responding to these risks by requiring robust cybersecurity for EV charging stations. As Bloomberg Law notes, the beleaguered bipartisan infrastructure bill, which contains up to $7.5 billion in funding for public EV chargers, would require those who apply for funds to show proof of cybersecurity due diligence.
But what about the operators of charging stations? Researchers from the Concordia Institute of Information Systems Engineering (CIISE) in California have highlighted the crucial need for operators of electric vehicle charging networks to patch security weaknesses in their chargers. If numerous chargers were taken over simultaneously, malicious attackers might theoretically overload the local power grid and cause blackouts.
Compliance with PCI DSS is required for these operators, but it is insufficient because cybersecurity risk is not restricted to the theft of personal and financial information. The risk also includes potential damage to EV batteries, compromised safety systems, charger malfunction, impaired building energy management network, frequency increase of the bulk system, etc. Bidirectional charging merely exacerbates the risk.
As we progress toward a greener, cleaner future in which all vehicles are powered by electricity, an increasing number of individuals and organizations are working towards the development of totally electric cars. Nevertheless, while this technology ushers in a new era of efficiency, it also necessitates a significant rethinking of how we keep the grid functioning without disruptions and how these vehicles and charging stations are protected against cyberattacks.