Putting solar in the driver’s seat: Solar mobility sparks increasing interest from transport and energy companies
Putting solar in the driver’s seat as solar mobility business models have sparked increasing interest from transport and energy companies.
Electrification is increasingly being recognised as the fastest and most efficient technological solution to decarbonise most segments of transport, starting with road transport, while the sector is still responsible for a quarter of EU CO2 emissions worldwide.7 In this context, the sustainability of electricity supplies to future vehicles is becoming a growing concern for private drivers, but also for cities and local authorities tasked with the deployment of electric mobility infrastructure.
Solar energy is a perfect match to fuel green, electric mobility. As an illustration, in light road transport only, a typical rooftop, 5 kW solar panel can easily produce the daily amount of electricity needed for the average commute of an electric vehicle, even though the adequacy of the PV system will depend on its geographical location and on time variations, including seasonal. Solar has also a predictable generation curve and produces electricity during the day which makes it perfectly complementary to electric mobility, particularly in certain use cases like day charging at work places or public parking, or combined with battery capacity at home – a match that can be further optimised with smart charging devices.
For all these reasons, solar mobility business models have sparked increasing interest from transport and energy companies, appearing as a promising solution to power tomorrow’s mobility.
The energy and automotive industry have developed innovative models enabling clean vehicles to drive on renewable electricity. Among the most dynamic models, “on-site solar supply models” (self-consumption) raise particular interest for residential consumers and workplaces, as a flexible electric vehicle optimises the self-consumption ratio and lowers the energy bill of the consumer. Off-site solar sourcing solutions are also gaining traction, related notably to the increased use of renewable energy sourcing criteria for urban charging infrastructures.
In addition, the recent announcement of large Solar Corporate Power Purchase Agreements (CPPAs) by SNCF and Deutsche Bahn, demonstrate the competitiveness and stability of solar electricity prices, increasingly appealing to mobility players. The vehicle-integrated PV segment, where solar cells are integrated in the vehicle, is proving to be significantly dynamic, with solar cars and trucks models on the markets. These models have been mapped and analysed by SolarPower Europe in its report “Putting Solar in the Driver’s Seat: Solar Mobility report”. The report reveals a large variety of models across all transport segments – from private cars to workplace fleets, through trains and public transport – and builds upon the lessons learnt of existing projects to give a comprehensive and critical understanding of the models.
But there is more to explore in solar mobility: according to IRENA, electric vehicles will represent a large storage capacity thus a large and valuable flexibility source for the further integration of renewables in Europe (14 TWh of EV batteries available globally for flexibility services in 2050, compared to a 9 TWh capacity of stationary storage). Smart charging, both unidirectional and bidirectional, could therefore facilitate significantly the penetration of decentralised solar and electric vehicles.
Smart policies can support these models and explore their mutually reinforcing characteristics. It is therefore key that transport policies facilitate the electrification of transport – by ensuring a fair access to electric mobility and deploying sufficient charging infrastructure – while fostering the synergies with the increasing penetration of renewable energies and solar in particular.
- Absence of proper valuation for renewable electricity sourcing in transport and difficulty to evaluate the additionality of renewables in transport.
- Lack of development of solar self-consumption schemes in Europe, including collective self-consumption.
- Insufficient development of corporate PPA frameworks.
- Unrealised framework for smart charging models: lack of openness of electricity markets to aggregators, absence of standard framework for accessing vehicle data, uncertain consumer engagement.
- Better public acceptance of the transport and energy transition.
- Increased competitiveness of electric mobility thanks to a cost-competitive solar fuel (in solar self-consumption models and in solar PPA models).
- Optimised grid integration of decentralised solar and electric vehicles due to smart charging and integrated energy and e-mobility planning.
- Support to solar deployment with private finance.