To parody a popular Sinatra song, They've got an awful lot of wind energy in Denmark. The country leads Europe in the proportion of electricity generated by wind, and was early into thinking about what to do with surplus wind energy at night, when demand is low and prices are cheap. Using those nocturnal volts and amps to recharge electric car batteries was quickly spotted as a promising idea, and during 2008 Denmark has seen a lengthening convoy of electric and hybrid electric auto manufacturers preparing to move in and grab a slice of the coming market.
In March, Shai Agassi's Project Better Place announced that its electric car scheme is set to roll out nationwide in Denmark in collaboration with leading energy concern DONG Energy and Renault/Nissan. In April, Swedish energy giant Vattenfall, together with auto makers Saab and Volvo announced their own plans to pitch into Denmark (or at least Copenhagen) with their plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. In May, French micro car manufacturer Aixam announced that its Mega City electric car would be appearing in Danish car showrooms within months. In June, Tesla Motors from the US made a grand entrance in Denmark with its sleek lined, high performance Tesla Roadster all-electric vehicle. And in August, Chinese auto maker BYD (Build Your Dreams) announced its intention to enter the Danish market with hybrid electric models.
With the prospect of a rapidly growing population of electric cars in Denmark, clever minds have started thinking of electric cars not just as a non-polluting and sustainable form of transport (remember the electricity is generated from a renewable resource), but also as a significant infrastructural component for energy storage and re-release that can be integrated with the electrical grid.
To develop this idea, German industrial giant Siemens has entered into a new consortium, called Edison, with a number of partners including DONG Energy, Denmark's leading integrated energy company and a major player in northern Europe, the Technical University of Denmark and the Danish Energy Association. The news has been widely reported in the Danish media.
The aim of the consortium is to design an infrastructure for electric cars where cars communicate intelligently with the electrical grid and exploit surplus power from wind turbines. Edison has applied for DKK 32m (USD 5.8m) from PSO* funds, while the partners are investing DKK 11m (USD 2m) in the three year project.
One of the key reasons for Siemens choosing Denmark as a test country is, as mentioned at the outset, that Denmark generates a greater proportion of its electricity from wind than any other European country. Furthermore, the Danish government has set the target that wind energy will cover 50% of Denmark's electricity production by 2025.
Jukka Pertola, MD of Siemens in Denmark says: "One million electric cars in Denmark could represent significant energy storage. They can charge up when the wind blows and supply electricity back to the grid at peak load. It is a very complicated solution which Siemens wants to be part of developing."
IBM is negotiating with Edison, but its participation has not yet been decided. The outcome will however not change the fact that IBM sees Denmark as a test country. The company is currently developing software solutions for an intelligent infrastructure.
PSO stands for Public Service Obligations, a tariff that is collected via consumers' electricity bills – Ed.