Metropolitan areas like Amsterdam are transitioning to solar and wind energy where electric vehicles contribute to improving the quality of life. Car batteries have tremendously improved and can be sufficiently charged within a matter of a few hours. Charging these electric vehicles spontaneously has the potential to support this energy transition, yet at the same time, the flexibility makes the planning of energy supply more complex. Ideally, flexible charging needs coincide with periods of abundant sun and wind when electricity prices are lower. These times of need and periods of high energy supply tend to be unpredictable.

Until recently, the energy constraints were addressed by upgrading the congested nodes of the infrastructure i.e. upgrade transformers, which may disrupt the flow of traffic temporarily. Such upgrades are also expensive and a civic nuisance and perhaps they are not even necessary.

Looking ahead into the future, some areas in Amsterdam could face frequent blackouts once 10% of the households charge their electric car at home, because fully charging an electric car requires approximately as much energy as the average household uses in 2-3 days. Currently, less than 2% of Amsterdam’s cars are electric and it is estimated to take another 5-10 years until this 10% limit is reached.

A new solution approach idea

Amsterdam’s distribution network operator Alliander is set to address this problem with Jedlix, a Dutch car charging company, and a research team of TU Delft combining expertise in electrical engineering, policy and management, mathematics and computer science. The goal is to identify new methods in automatic scheduling of car charging. These new methods would thus preempt the infrastructural limits. A few companies, i.e. aggregators, already apply this flexible approach for charging electric cars when wind is abundant and the cost of energy is low. This can be further optimized for each car separately by scheduling similar charging schedules for all cars.As a result, a complex puzzle presents itself that must involve all parties in a given neighborhood to be solved.

URSES+ Projects

This project “Future-Proof Flexible Charging: Dealing With Uncertain Prices & Network Constraints” (URSES+ FFP) is one of 8 research projects in which AMS Institute explores uncertainties in smart energy systems. A complete list of research projects can be found here.

  • February 2017 – January 2019