E-Vehicles and Infrastructure: From Technology Innovation to the Emergence of a New Business Model and Associated Training Needs

E-vehicles as starting point of a new business model

E-vehicles represent an efficient solution for captive fleets or short trips mainly in urban areas. This is made possible by  improved technologies like efficient power electronics, high capacity lithium batteries, lightweight materials and optional range extenders. These technologies create new opportunities and constraints for technicians, new jobs and
knowledge which comes along with needs for new trainings in terms of technology and safety rules, for example for working with high voltage (HV) vehicle components.

Currently an e-vehicle is plugged to the power network which, classically, distributes energy produced by huge centralised power plants to consumers who may be located far away. In a near future, the electric infrastructure
must change, become smart and reliable, and the e-vehicle must be integrated in the network and not only remaining as a simple consumer. This upgraded network is called a smart grid. The reason to introduce this concept is clear; today, if we replace 20% of the cars by e-vehicles, we will face a blackout of the grid during the well-known peak consumptions hours. There is an absolute need to intelligently manage the production, consumption and energy storage of the  electrical grid. Moreover, renewable energy production is steadily increasing and is highly decentralised, mainly  roduced by wind turbines, solar panels, and combined heat power generators (CHP).

The Smart-Grid, a new business model for our electrical network, a change for our daily life and our consumer behavior.


The infrastructure for electricity production and distribution is changing, it becomes more decentralised, and the different components must communicate altogether and with local and global control systems. For example, if the consumers are not using energy on a sunny afternoon, the production of the local solar panels is not necessary. On the other hand, if the power generators of an area are saturated, a blackout might occur. Simple examples like these can easily demonstrate the need to monitor every component of the grid, whatever a production means or a consumer, in order to control its function for the functionality of the whole grid. From a theoretical point of view this means that a smart grid must have all the following characteristics: Information based, smart communication protocol, security, selfhealing,
reliable, flexible, cost-effective and dynamically controllable.

In practice, the future of energy management is a network of conventional power plants associated to decentralised CHP-CNG systems and decentralised renewable energy  generators (wind turbines, solar panels) associated with measurement tools (sensors), communication technologies (IT) and management tools (PLC). Consumers are an integral part of the smart grid and are therefore also submitted to the new general management rules. The overall consumer behaviour and a conscious mind on the environmental impact of the user habits are the success key of the
energy management in the next years.

That one plant exclusively produces what is requested and distributed through the network is an outdated approach; the European countries have to progressively integrate two other major approaches:

1.    The remote control of decentralised components including production equipment and domestic non-vital consumers.
2.    A new energy storage capacity with decentralised batteries, for example e-vehicles, and the ability to remotely manage the charge of the e-vehicle batteries or allow the customer to take the decision to charge.

In this new energy market, it is likely that the e-vehicles will have a special function as consumer and storage medium under certain conditions.

Due to these modifications, new ways of thinking will appear, new knowledge must be gained and professions will change, thus also creating a new need for training.

A local micro smart-grid located at the Campus of Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) as pedagogic tool to support trainings


Following this preliminary aspects, the Campus Francorchamps, skill and training centre has decided to install a micro smart grid for pedagogical purposes, able to work at a local level. More precisely, the “Campus Smart Grid” consists of:

-    A domestic micro wind turbine of 5 KW on a 15 meters high mast
-    A sun followers of 16 solar mono-crystalline panels for a total of 4 KW peak
-    Combined Heat Power engine (CNG) producing 50 KW electric and 80 KW thermal
-    Bidirectional charging point for e-vehicles of 10KW DC with a battery storage of 10kWh
-    E-vehicles with batteries of more than 20 kWh including a battery management system     allowing the charge/discharge mode in the communication protocol
-    Sensors (anemometer, brightness, current,voltage ...)
-    PLC component management
-    Electric power network
-    IT communication network
-    A remaining connection to the power grid for consumption only

This facility will initially be used to support awareness activities and theoretical introductions to technologies encountered. It will then be used to make measurements and validate simulation models. Finally, the maintenance
work can be taught by organising the disassembly of certain components.

The Campus Smart Grid has also been designed to enable other producer/consumer elements to be included in the system in order to validate and/or demonstrate the product capabilities in a Smart Grid scheme.

The major difficulty of the trainings to be set up consists in adapting the different contents to different publics like students, job seekers and workers from technical, engineering or commercial departments.

In order to accelerate the introduction of e-cars in rural areas is to implement the concept that the e-vehicle is not only an eco-friendly transport solution but also a way to store the energy in a larger energy management concept. The car will be used as a transport system, an intelligent energy management tool and a storage system.

Conclusions

Both, energy and automotive industry are facing tremendous changes. Until 2020 they have to find viable solutions to meet the upcoming EU regulations.

Renewable energies are popping up in Northwest Europe and the energy sector has to face this new challenge, which means particularly to assure a stabilised grid. Major car manufacturers introduce e-vehicles in their product range with all the consequences: modification of production plant, new materials and much more. As e-cars are becoming more and more affordable due to a better total cost of ownership and other progressing factors, the consumer-demand increases.

All these storage systems on wheels are a new energy concept possibility. The next issue concerns the transformation of the electric power grid into the so-called smart grid including more and more decentralised equipments. These modifications will introduce new ways of thinking and new skills, which highlight a need for change in the education of the workforce in the affected sectors.