The German government’s new master plan for charging infrastructure

Munich, 3 January 2020

The next decade will be shaped by the revolution in energy and drive systems. This sounds like an abstract idea to many people, so an illustration is in order to make it more tangible. That’s why we are taking a look into the (perhaps not so unrealistic) crystal ball – and following our protagonist on a completely normal day in 2025 in Germany.

Already shortly after 7 a.m. Oh no, overslept again. Okay, time to get up. A quick trip to the kitchen to turn on the coffee maker. Then to the bathroom. Shower, blow-dry, get ready for work. And Sophie isn’t the only one who has already sprung to action. The power grid is going at full blast, too. All over the country, people are getting ready to face the day. They have turned on their electric kettles, toasters, and coffeemakers; their radios are playing in the background; they need warm water to shower; they are blow-drying their hair and have the lights turned on in many different rooms.

While all that is going on, heavy machinery has also started up in factories and hundreds of thousands of light bulbs are lighting up the dark production halls. That daily first peak in energy consumption heats up the power lines all over the country. It's a good thing that politics and industry introduced a new technology several years ago that smooths out this peak every morning, lightens the load on the power grid and even reduces CO2.

The electricity that Sophie uses in the morning no longer comes from a power plant several kilometers away. It is actually generated by the wind and sun and comes directly from her parking garage – with a short detour. There she parks her electric car, which can carry out one small, yet essential, task that the e-cars of the previous decades could not. It can release the energy, which is generated by completely renewable sources, from the battery back to the power grid when it is urgently needed.

Sophie chose an electric car that has Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) technology for two main reasons. Firstly, it was important to her to accelerate the energy revolution and to help make the use of renewable energy more efficient. Her car now charges overnight with electricity from wind power plants, which is produced in excess at that time, and reliably makes this sustainably produced energy available again every morning. The small decrease in her car's range is not a problem for Sophie. The two or three kilowatt hours of electricity missing from the battery in the morning have no effect at all on her 40 kilometer (25 mile) commute to work. Besides that, she can plug her car in again when she gets to work. And if the battery actually needs to be fully charged in the morning, she can easily change the setting in her smartphone app the night before.

The second reason for Sophie's decision to buy an electric car was the financial incentives that come with V2G. It’s not just that electric cars are now much cheaper than gasoline and diesel cars, thanks to their lower complexity and the service and operating costs. There’s another benefit, too: since her car is almost always connected to the power grid and releases energy like a small power plant when short-term load peaks need to be smoothed out, she is able to earn an extra 650 euros per year on average. That is enough to pay for the electricity that she needs for the 15,000 kilometers (9,321 miles) she drives every year in the car.

Sometimes, when she drives past a gas station, she gives herself a satisfied little smile as she thinks back to the time when she still drove a normal car with a gasoline engine – and had to pay 70 euros every two weeks for environmentally-unfriendly gas.

And, now that Sophie has arrived at work and sat down at her desk, her vehicle has also gotten to work.

It is connected to a charging station at its parking spot. Just as it does at home, it’s charging up with renewable energy – primarily solar power during the day. In the late morning, this energy will once again be needed somewhere else. Dozens of stoves in the cafeteria will send the building's load curve skyrocketing. Since the building has been outfitted with a smart load and energy management system, her company does not have to pay high prices to get this additional electricity from the electricity provider. It is much cheaper when it comes from right next door – from the batteries of the employees' electric cars.

Sophie is not the only one driving around with her tiny four-wheeled power plant: nearly 5 million electric cars are already on the road in Germany. And another million are added every year. It looks like the government's goal of putting 10 million electric cars on the street by 2030, which was announced five years ago, will become reality.

That's a good sign for the CO2 targets. As renewable energy is used more efficiently, to which electric cars contribute in a decisive way, it also develops more rapidly: By 2030, Germany will be able to cover two-thirds of its total electricity demand with green energy. Even the transportation sector, once the problem child as far as CO2 emissions go, is on the right path: Thanks solely to the smart integration of these 10 million electric cars into the power grid, a good two-thirds of the CO2 reduction goals will already be reached by 2030. And with every additional million electric cars, the reductions increase even more. Blackouts, often seen as a boogeyman and used as a favorite argument against e-cars, have not come to pass – despite the many electric cars.

On the contrary, the power grid is more stable and dependable than ever before. That’s because the charging and energy management systems allow energy from car batteries to smooth out peak loads and bottlenecks in the power grid more quickly and systematically than other alternatives. No matter if it's in the morning, at midday, or in the evening.

Sophie turns up the volume on her alarm clock so she doesn’t oversleep again and can start her morning with less stress. And when she falls asleep, she once again has a little smile on her lips. That’s because, when she thinks about her car plugged in down in the parking garage, she remembers a saying that has come true for her: she is earning money while she sleeps.

And who can really say that about themselves?