Global Warming Meets EVs: Overcoming the Impacts of Higher Temperatures on Critical Charging Infrastructure
As global temperatures continue to rise, we find ourselves facing one of the hottest summers on record. In fact, the first week of July of this year, we witnessed extreme heat, with the average global temperature reaching a whopping 17.01 degrees Celsius (62.62 degrees Fahrenheit), as recorded by the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Prediction, compared to a typical global average of 13.9 degrees Celsius (57 degrees Fahrenheit).
What’s more, due to sweltering temperatures, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) has predicted a “high risk of energy emergencies during peak summer conditions,” especially in regions like the Upper Midwest of the United States. This June, NERC’s predictions came true when over 300,000 households in Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana in the southern U.S. were left without power due to a combination of severe weather and extremely high temperatures, putting many people at risk by cutting them off from power. As soaring global temperatures continue to strain the electricity grid, “brownouts” (temporary reduction in power voltage) and power outages are likely to become more common due to the excessive demand to power essential appliances, air conditioning units, fans, and lighting during peak hours.
But the stress on the electrical grid not only impacts homes and businesses when they need it most during the hot summer months; the scorching heat has serious implications for electric vehicle (EV) owners, as it exposes a vulnerability in EV adoption – the access to reliable power for charging during blackouts and brownouts. In August 2022, in California – the state with the highest level of EV adoption – residents were asked not to charge their vehicles during peak hours as the electrical grid could not deal with the extra load during an extreme heatwave. As a result, it is becoming increasingly clear that, without access to reliable backup power, power disruptions during extreme weather conditions such as heat waves will continue to inhibit the ability of EV owners to reliably charge their vehicles, creating concerns about the practicality and feasibility of EV usage during peak summer periods.
Despite these challenges, there is still hope for EV owners and EV fleet managers to access reliable grid-independent EVSE solutions that will enable efficient EV charging even in the face of rising global temperatures. However, before discussing those, it is important to understand how hot temperatures impact electricity supply and EV charging and the ways that reliable backup power from sustainable sources can help bridge this increasingly prevalent challenge to widespread EV adoption.
How Rising Global Temperatures Impact Electricity Generation and EV Charging Capacity
Increased temperatures in the summer months, due to climate change and global warming, have various adverse effects on electricity generation, transmission, and distribution. According to peer-reviewed research (2018), traditional electricity generation methods such as coal-to-gas conversion and combined cycle gas turbines experience reduced efficiency during high temperatures. Delivery, transmission, and distribution of electricity are also impacted by elevated temperatures, as high temperatures reduce the carrying capacity of power lines and transformers, resulting in increased losses and reduced electrical generation capacity.
The decrease in generation capacity and efficiency strains power plants and creates issues with delivery, transmission and distribution which further hinder the ability to meet the increased electricity demand during hot weather caused by wider operation of air conditioning units, fans, and other appliances.
Furthermore, in order to find a solution to offset the strain on the grid, electrical utilities often decide to apply solar photovoltaic (PV) power, a popular renewable energy source, to distribute the generation capacity. However, in extreme heat, solar PV systems also suffer from reduced efficiency. According to data from the World Economic Forum, extreme heat of above 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) can reduce the output efficiency of solar panels by 10%-25%. This limitation curtails the potential contribution of solar energy to the grid during peak summer conditions – especially during the increasingly frequent heatwaves we are experiencing in Summer, further exacerbating the pressure on traditional power sources.
Keep in mind that rising temperatures also affect the operability of EVs and their charging infrastructure. The majority of EVs rely on lithium-ion batteries, which perform poorly in extreme heat, especially when they are also needed to power the car’s air conditioning to create comfortable driving conditions. This strain can result in the battery overheating, reduced battery lifespan, and slower charging speeds, thereby affecting the overall performance and EV range. While Geotab found in their research that colder temperatures were more likely overall to affect EV range compared to warmer temperatures, at above 21-22 C (70-71 F), the range of the EVs participating in the study was impacted.
Courtesy of: Source: https://www.geotab.com/blog/ev-range/
Clearly, high temperatures impact all aspects of electric vehicle operation – the power system, the EVSE charging equipment, and the vehicles themselves, for all of which the industry is seeking solutions. In terms of power for charging, significant strain is placed on CPOs when drivers need them the most, especially if the station doesn’t have a stable source of backup power, not only to charge the EVs but also to support the facility’s load (lights, communications, etc.) to help withstand potential and increasingly common power outages.
Solutions for More Effective and Sustainable Summer EV Charging
With summer temperatures reaching some of the highest ever recorded, EVs face numerous challenges to effective operability during peak summer conditions, making it essential to increase dependability with reliable charging solutions. That’s where off-grid power solutions incorporating backup power from independent power generation sources such as fuel cells can enter the picture to provide an independent source of energy for EV charging, supplementing the grid’s capacity during peak periods, brownouts, and blackouts.
As grid instability during extreme weather conditions leads to grid overloading, making most forms of EV charging impossible, adoption of off-grid charging solutions such as GenCell’s EVOX™ hydrogen and ammonia-based fuel cell can alleviate the pressure and ensure continuous EV charging even during grid disruptions. EVOX™’s zero-emission fuel cell technology leverages hydrogen and ammonia fuel cells to deliver green, grid-independent EV charging that can operate in extreme temperatures and during grid or power supply disruptions.
Moreover and as discussed, because traditional solar PV can systems can suffer from reduced efficiency in extreme heat, supplementing solar energy with fuel cells can create stable and consistent power supply conditions for EV charging, which are unaffected by weather conditions. This enhances the reliability and availability of sustainable PV-powered EV charging solutions, even during hot weather and periods of solar PV vulnerability.
Solutions like the EVOX™ fuel cell can provide CPOs, EV owners, fleet managers, emergency services, logistics teams, and others with the security that they will be able to charge their vehicle even when the grid can’t. The scalability and reliability of fuel cells make them key components of future-proof solutions to meet the rising demand for resilient and grid-independent EV charging infrastructure that can withstand even the most intense temperatures.
Temperatures Will Continue to Rise, and EV Charging Needs to Keep Up
We are currently confronting the challenges of one of the hottest summers yet with power outages becoming more common, making it essential to ensure the availability of reliable and efficient EV charging infrastructure to reduce EV owners’ range anxiety and improve widespread adoption of this technology that is critically important to the future of our planet. Sustainable fuel cell technology has the potential to keep charging electric vehicles during even the hottest weather conditions and grid disruptions, while also bolstering the reliability of solar PV-integrated charging stations that maximize EV’s environmental benefits. By adopting off-grid power solutions, EV charging efficiency is maximized even in extreme temperatures, reducing reliance on the grid and enhancing EVs’ resilience against the escalating effects of climate change and global warming.
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