Electric cars as buffers in an electricity network

Jaap Vleugel, Frans Bal

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Producing more electricity from alternative sources may help to reach four goals: reduce CO2- and other emissions, compensate for depleting resources, reduce political dependency and replace an ageing and inefficient infrastructure. Billions of Euros have to be spent in ‘grey’ or ‘green technology to secure a reliable future supply of electricity. Producing electricity via photovoltaic (PV) systems has an Achilles heel: the sun is not a constant, reliable and manageable source of electric power like a fossil fuelled power plant. Variations in the supplied quantity and quality of electricity per unit of time may have economic (e.g. underutilisation of factories and rationing of consumption), physical (blackouts) and environmental penalties (if fossil fuel based back-up units temporarily ‘kick-in’ to balance demand and supply). Several options might be considered to guarantee a reliable supply of electricity during an energy transition. A drastic increase in energy-efficiency and energy saving measures is technically feasible. and already happening at some scale. It may be the best solution for the environment, but it takes a long time and major investments.
Electric cars could be used for mobile storage of electrical energy, alone or combined with fixed storage.
The paper addresses 4 issues: The role of a buffer; the pros and cons for individual households of using grid-integrated electric cars; the potential for individual self-sufficiency; the remaining role of government.
Buffers are used in an electricity grid to balance demand and supply. Electric cars can fulfil a role as buffer in an electricity grid. This scenario does not provide a stimulus for major energy savings. The alternative scenario of self-sufficiency (‘off-griding), in which solar PV systems and electric cars are combined, is not feasible for an average Dutch household, yet. Under any scenario, the energy transition will change the role of government significantly.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEnvironmental Impact 2016
EditorsCarlos Brebbia, Jose Miralles i Garcia
Place of PublicationAshurst
PublisherWIT Press
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2016

Publication series

NameWIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment
PublisherWIT Press
ISSN (Electronic)1743-3541


  • electricity grid
  • electric cars and environmental impact


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  • The impact of hybrid engines on fuel consumption and emissions of heavy-duty trucks

    Bal, F. & Vleugel, J., 30 Nov 2017, Energy and Sustainability VII. Brebbia, CA. & Sendra, J. (eds.). Southampton: WIT Press, Vol. 224. p. 203-212 (WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment; vol. 224).

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