Energy Energy Storage Electrochemical Storage Batteries

Electric vehicle batteries will ‘dwarf’ grid’s energy storage needs



According to experts at the International Renewable Energy Agency., there will be enough batteries in electric vehicles by 2050 to support a grid that runs on solar and wind.

Perspectives and insights

  • Electric vehicles are expected to carry 40 terawatt-hours of battery storage by 2050 compared to nine terawatts of stationary storage available then.
  • If we see storage from not from a transport perspective but from a power-sector perspective it means that a massive electricity storage capacity would be available with all these batteries on wheels.
  • Vehicle-to-grid makes a lot of sense because cars are parked 90 percent of the time, and the battery is connected to the grid for such a long time that we can actually use the battery to offer some services back to the grid.
  • The prospect of shared autonomous vehicles however means far fewer vehicles would be needed overall, and each would be connected to the grid for less time, which could deprive the grid of this vast mobile battery.

Xoologue - a discussion between Xoo and Moo

Xoo: Who could have thought, Moo, that your car could become a power plant?

Moo: Well, Xoo, not a power plant really. More a power storage device.

Xoo: Technically yes, a storage device... All the same, such a phenomenal expected storage capacity in vehicles by 2050.

Moo: Do you have any opinions on these numbers, Xoo?

Xoo: Well, 2050 is too far away from today. But as you are want to saying, “we overestimate short term trends & underestimate long term trends” so I reckon these numbers are not impossible.

Moo: I still detect a shade of doubt in your voice.

Xoo: Ah, the ever perceptive Moo, yes, there’s indeed a bit of lingering doubt. But it’s not about the storage capacities in the batteries; it’s about the estimate for stationary storage devices by 2050.

Moo: You think 9 TWh of stationary storage is too high?

Xoo: I think it is very low.

Moo: Very low? My! Why do you say that?

Xoo: Consider the fact, Moo. The world uses 25000 TWh of electricity a year currently (2020). IEA predicts a doubling of this by 2050, resulting mainly from developing & underdeveloped countries. By 2050, solar plus wind are expected to contribute to 40% of world’s electricity demand which works out to 20000bTWh of solar + wind power.

Moo: I see your logic

Xoo: It gladdens me that you do, which is not so very often. Solar and wind power at such large proportions to total grid power will need a reasonable amount of storage to ensure grid reliability is maintained. What do you think will be such reasonable percentage of such requirement?

Moo: 20%

Xoo: You will give a heart attack to everyone in the power industry, Moo, saying a number like that. 20% is too high

Moo: What’s your guess?

Xoo: 5% at best, Moo.

Moo: Well, your estimate isn’t drastically different from mine.

Xoo: As you say, Moo. So, let’s go with 5%. That would amount to 1000 TWh.

Moo: Sounds impossible. That’s 1000 times more than what is being suggested here. Xoo, I think we both are terribly wrong in our estimate.

Xoo: Moo, I’m rarely wrong.

Moo: So perhaps this is one of those rare occasions. We already have about 2000 TWh of solar and wind power being generated, right now, in 2020. How much storage is being used for this?

Xoo: It appears that you know the answer. Go shoot, Moo.

Moo: At best 1 GWh, practically an insignificant % of total electricity generated from solar & wind - 0.00005% if you really wish to know on the number! On the other hand we were talking about 5% & 10%. Now I can understand why my estimate of 20% is ridiculous. But so is your estimate of 5%, Xoo.

Xoo: Your skills on data & comprehension, Moo, any day exceeds mine. But I’m not sureI can say the same about your inference that 5% is too high. I have a different perspective.

Moo: All right! Let’s hear the perspective from the self-appointed expert of cleantech perspectives.

Xoo: Your sarcasm never hurts me, Moo, it rather spurs me on. I’ll tell you why the current percentage of renewable storage will have no relation to what it will be in future. It’s because renewable energy injected into the grid is still far too small to bother the grid and its stability. Are you sure these infirm power generation sources can keep the grid stable when they supply 40% of the total instead of 5-6% they do today?

Moo: I recall us discussing this problem, Xoo. We both know that there will be need to be storage but 5% of total compared to practically zero right now? I don’t buy it, Xoo.

Xoo: I can appreciate that your scepticism is well-founded. We’ll just need to keep watching this space, Moo,