Cars change their paradigm: from means of transport to two-wheel battery

Published on Tuesday, 19 April 2016

The challenge of bringing electric mobility to Europe is being addressed through the creation of an extensive user-friendly charging infrastructure. Developing a vast network that is fast and flexible in its supply to all types of e-cars on the market is a crucial factor in creating a new private and sustainable public transport model “from the gas pump to the exhaust pipe.”

The issue was the focus of the second edition of the international conference e-Mobility Charging Infrastructures in Europe 2020, a conference held in Berlin on April 17th and 18th, which was attended by representatives of European and national institutions and large automotive and energy companies.

Ernesto Ciorra, Head of Innovation and Sustainability, and Federico Caleno, Head of New Technologies and Global I&N Innovation Network Technology Unit, spoke on behalf of the Enel Group in a panel with a peculiar and surprising name, to say the least: Destroying paradigms of a car: using open innovation to become a platypus.

What does this unusual mammal have in common with innovation and e-cars? Ciorra explained their similarities while explaining our Open Power vision of innovation: ‘The platypus is an animal that breaks the mould, challenging all existing paradigms. It is an example of evolution and adaptation. Being a “platypus company” means being ready to meet the challenges that arise by evolving and constantly changing.’

Therefore, the key to introducing a new mobility model in Europe is to propose innovative and shared solutions that are capable of meeting the challenge of reducing emissions and contributing to the fight against climate change. However, for e-cars, the path towards the affirmation of the species is only just beginning. ‘Although mass market viability is still 5 to 10 years away, sustainable business conditions for the rollout must be built today, including the necessary technological updates. This includes the availability of charging infrastructure for long-distance traveling as well as the improvement of battery capacity and the cost per kWh. Both are key parameters in guaranteeing a continuous improvement over the EV’s TCO, which is the real hurdle for EV adoption today.’

Ciorra focused on the importance of finding innovative solutions that respond to several issues simultaneously: ‘Electric mobility is undoubtedly a multidisciplinary business opportunity that must be undertaken by taking into account perspectives from different industries, ranging from utilities to automotive and IT industries. This means promoting various forms of collaboration with e-mobility focused startups, important players in the automotive industry (such as our partnership with Nissan), battery manufacturers, and EU-funded cooperation projects.’

The concept of Open Innovation and the ability to leverage a complex supply chain, with a significant deleveraging of intellectual property compared to the past, will be key drivers of competition in the market, promoting technological improvements and a rethinking of incumbent business models.’ It is in this context that Enel is working to establish itself as a hub, encouraging the development of new solutions to accelerate this process.

Federico Caleno then outlined the numerous e-mobility solutions implemented by Enel, highlighting the fact that over the course of just a few years, we have developed cutting-edge technology that has simplified charging systems and made them more flexible. We were also the first, he explained, to develop the vehicle-to-grid system (V2G), soon to be launched worldwide and for which we are planning a 2.0 version within the year 2017. This solution will allow electric vehicles to become “mobile power plants,” that allow customers to use, accumulate and easily feed electricity back into the grid, through new technology for the management of two-way charging, available at charging stations but also on board. Thanks to this system, vehicles will act as storage systems. For example, vehicles can be charged when the production of energy from renewable sources is very high and the same energy can be fed back into the grid when the grid itself should require it in order to be balanced. According to present estimates, the model could produce a benefit worth around € 1,400 a year for each vehicle, as well as nearly zeroing emissions.

A wide range of technological solutions, from power grids to automobiles, for an increasingly sustainable and open future.