What will happen when we all go electric?

Published on 10.11.2021

Although often depicted as a cure-all solution, electro-mobility nevertheless presents a number of challenges, particularly with regard to electricity supplies. The ACL looked at the practical example of the Berchem service area.

In bringing together environmentalist Minister of Energy Claude Turmes and President of the Groupement Pétrolier Luxembourgeois (GPL) Romain Hoffmann around the same table on 7th October, the ACL had already risen to the challenge, but the fact that the two men left the ACL webinar they were invited to take part in with an agreement to work more closely together on the development of more sustainable personal mobility represented a major step forward.

The reason for this was the electrification of the European car fleet, which will also lead to a significant increase in demand, the main challenge then being to meet this demand without risking the collapse of the electricity supply network. This is all the more important when you consider that there are currently over a billion combustion engine vehicles on the road worldwide.

The impact of electrification on the Berchem service area

In practical terms, how would Luxembourg cope with the current situation if, for example, the cars and lorries that stop to fill up at the Berchem service area were now powered by electric engines?
The experts at the ACL performed this exercise, and the results are enlightening in many aspects. Almost a million cars and over 165,000 trucks currently stop at the Berchem station on the France-bound carriageway every year to refuel, representing almost 100 million litres of fuel.

The 20 petrol pumps currently in operation are sufficient to accommodate this level of traffic, as it is possible for an average-sized car to fill up in under two minutes. In the case of an electric vehicle, however, the situation is altogether quite different, as shown in the following table.

Indeed, if 60% of cars were to go electric, this would require at least forty HPC (100kW rapid charge) charging stations to be installed, or even twice that number to cope with the influx of vehicles during holiday periods.
Clearly, then, there is no easy solution to this situation, and motorists will certainly benefit from changing their habits considerably in the years to come.

While electricity infrastructure manager Creos assures us that the national grid will be able to cope with a demand of up to 1100 additional GWh per year, the Berchem service station on the France-bound carriageway alone would consume 53.4GWh, i.e. 1/100th of the country’s annual consumption for an equivalent service. It is important to note that these figures are based on the conservative assumption that in 2040, 60% of the current number of cars will be electric and only 30% of lorries.

As far as Minister of Energy Claude Turmes is concerned, these figures only reinforce his desire “to implement a better policy for moving more quickly towards greater energy efficiency”. President of the GPL Romain Hoffmann, meanwhile, maintains that “this sets out a very clear framework within which we must evolve and whereby everyone must work together, public and private parties alike, to promote electro-mobility and give it a chance to succeed”.

Keeping alternative sources in mind

As far as the ACL is concerned, while it is clear that mobility must be made more sustainable, it is also important not to overlook other alternative clean energy sources while focusing solely on electro-mobility. Hydrogen, synthetic fuels and even more efficient biofuels could ease the transition towards cleaner mobility and even prove to be worthy long-term alternatives.

The development of electro-mobility as it is currently planned also raises other key issues, notably regarding electricity supply. The wind, solar and hydro-power that Creos believes will meet the estimated increase in demand for electro-mobility will not be able to meet it alone, for the simple reason that such sources are, by their very nature, intermittent and need to be supported by controllable power sources. This explains why coal, natural gas and nuclear fission are currently the three leading sources of electricity generation and will remain so for many years to come.   


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