Electric mobility, the necessary revolution

Published on Monday, 18 January 2016

Cities crossed by  zero-emission vehicles with quiet engines that can also be charged in one’s garage. What could have been considered utopian up to a few years ago is becoming an increasingly tangible reality, set to radically change this industry’s model: the mobility of the future will be electric. As shown by the Global EV Outlook 2015 drawn up by the IEA (International Energy Agency), according to which between 2008 and 2014 the sale of electric cars and the installation of distribution networks have constantly increased. In particular, between 2012 and 2014 standard charging stations have more than doubled, while fast-recharge ones are eight times as many.

The recent United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) confirmed that urban transport is one of the most climate-altering sectors. A radical change in the mobility system is needed to overcome the combination of congestion and pollution that afflicts cities - especially large ones - and represents a tangible threat for the future. As a result, governments are called upon to support the efforts of automotive and energy operators in developing electric cars and charging systems that can increase the usability and affordability of e-mobility.

Despite the fact that the market penetration of e-cars is still limited, the sector’s technological development can already offer vehicles with out-of-town battery life and super-fast and interoperable charging infrastructure, and hence accessible for customers served by different electricity providers. The Enel Group started to test charging systems almost a decade ago, and has become a global leader in this field, with initiatives in Europe and Latin America.

In Italy, the almost 2,000 smart and interoperable stations, usable by customers with different providers, installed by us, form the country’s largest public electric car urban charging network.

Our Spanish subsidiary Endesa is also a global zero-emission mobility benchmark. In Malaga – already at the centre of a smart city project – within the Zem2All (Zero Emissions for All) project, we installed 23 electric car charging stations, creating the largest fast recharge network ever developed in a European city. With Zem2All, vehicles and stations are connected to a control centre that sends real time information, useful to facilitate city driving thanks to a specific application for smartphones. The latter enables customers to obtain information on the vehicles’ charging level and to book a place at one of the available charging stations.

Along the lines of Zem2All, Endesa has recently developed eCAR, the first Fast Self-Charging Club for electric cars. A fast recharge station network (80 percent of the battery in less than 30 minutes)  has been installed on the island of Majorca, providing consumers with full battery life for motoring on the island.  The charging costs are directly included in the bill and, like Zem2All, consumers can download an app on their smartphones, allowing them to find the closest charging stations and the best available route, as well as calculate how long the journey takes.

In 2014 Endesa joined the GrowSmarter project, supported by the European Commission through the Horizon 2020 (H2020) programme. The initiative involved the installation in Barcelona of five charging stations using Enel’s FASTO technology, allowing to recharge up to three vehicles simultaneously in 20-30 minutes. The charging stations will be used by a totally electric 20-taxi fleet.

In the new age of mobility car-sharing will play an increasingly significant role. Enel and car2go have accelerated progress, combining their expertise in the development of electric car sharing projects at a global level. This pilot initiative, one of the largest of its kind in Europe, was launched in Madrid with 350 shared e-cars, which will soon become 500. This provides for a ready availability of electric cars, while the car2go will take care of charging operations. The e-car charging technology will be developed by Enel, with 28 Wall Boxes of 22 kW each: a secure and intelligent system that can remotely support all recharge activities. Enel will also ensure the electricity supply  and maintenance services.

Finally, as part of the COP21, we announced our partnership with Nissan, established with the goal of revolutionising this industry by turning cars into real batteries with wheels. The agreement includes the development of an innovative Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) system. The V2G enables electric vehicles to simply use, accumulate or re-inject electricity into the grid by using new technologies for two-way charging management, on board or at the stations. If at a given moment in a certain area an amount of energy is produced exceeding the needs of the grid, it can be stored for reuse when needed using the e-car as a storage system.  This will optimise the "green" energy flow from small renewable energy power plants throughout the area. Users can also charge the batteries of their cars at times when energy prices and demand are lower, and then use the stored electricity or sell it back to the grid at peak times when tariffs are higher.