This blog post has been updated in Dec 19 to reflect the re-branding of NCOS to ‘Climate Active’.
In our first blog post on electric vehicles, we analysed the carbon footprint of electric vehicles. In the second blog post of the series, we present three considerations for making zero-emissions claims for your electric vehicles. In the final blog post of this series, we are investigating ways you can safely claim ’zero emissions’ for the operation of your EVs.
There are many ways to ’green’ the energy supplied to charge your EVs at your own business premises. However, what if you charge your vehicles at shopping centres, other businesses, at home, on a freeway, or other locations? If seeking to use renewable energy or be ’zero emissions’ for your EV fleet, your strategy should include both ’onsite’ and ’offsite’ charging plans.
Strategies for claiming ’zero emissions’ when charging EVs at your business premises (‘onsite’)
The good news about charging EVs at your own locations is that you have complete control over the emissions-intensity of the electricity powering your charging stations. There are five basic options you can consider:
- Buy 100% GreenPower® for charge points
- Corporate Power Purchase Agreement
- Become carbon neutral
- Switch to carbon neutral electricity
- Solar panels (and batteries)
Strategy #1 – Buy 100% GreenPower®
An easy way to charge your electric car from clean energy is to purchase 100% GreenPower® for the account the charging point is connected to. All you would need to do is call your electricity provider and ask to be switched over to their 100% GreenPower® product.
For more information, please read the GreenPower for Businesses Guide that we developed for the National GreenPower Accreditation Scheme.
Strategy #2 – Corporate Power Purchase Agreement for renewables
If you are a large energy user, you could enter into a corporate Power Purchase Agreement and include sites/accounts that power your EV charging point(s).
You could either enter into a bundled PPA agreement where you purchase both the electricity and the green credentials (RECs/LGCs) or into an LGC-only PPA.
If corporate PPAs do not suit your circumstances, you can also buy LGCs directly from brokers, with 1 REC/LGC purchased and retired for each MWh of electricity consumed for your EVs or facilities including EV charging points. While this is a potentially more expensive strategy than strategy 3 or 4 (below), you can claim both ‘zero emissions’ and ‘fully renewable’ for your electric vehicles.
Strategy #3 – Carbon neutrality
If your organisation is carbon neutral, then your EV charging points would be included in your carbon footprint. You may pursue carbon neutrality for stand-alone buildings or events, and where EV charging forms part of the scope of these activities, then it can also be carbon neutral. You may simply wish to be carbon neutral for your EV charging stations if these have separate metering or sub-metering. If this is data is not available, then you can get this information from your EVs, as most have the capability to track their energy consumption.
The basics steps for becoming carbon neutral are to measure your carbon footprint, reduce it as much as possible and offset the rest through the purchase of carbon credits. Australian organisations can consider becoming carbon neutral under the Climate Active, or you may simply purchase offsets for emissions within the boundaries of your carbon neutrality claim.
Strategy #4 – Switch to carbon neutral electricity
There are currently three electricity providers in Australia that offer carbon-neutral electricity, Powershop, Energy Australia and Energy Locals. You could consider switching suppliers and selecting their carbon neutral products. You can find more information in our article about 10 ways to green your electricity supply.
You need to make sure that the charging point is connected to the account that you are switching over to carbon-neutral electricity.
Strategy #5 – Charging EVs from solar panels
Organisations are starting to put EV charging stations at locations where they also have solar PV installations. One of the first Australian examples is the Macadamia Castle on NSW’s Far North Coast which in 2014 installed a 45 kW solar system on its car park canopy. The solar installation powers both the main building and the EV charging station.
If your business is considering using solar to power electric vehicles, note that you are likely to also use grid power to supplement solar energy, so you should not simply assume that all charging from a solar array is ’green’. If at any point the power output from your solar array is less than the power draw to charge the vehicles, then you will be using grid energy to achieve the shortfall. There are chargers that will only use onsite solar generation to charge EVs, and have settings to slow or stop charging when there is insufficient solar power available (e.g. Zappi).
You could install batteries as well which could increase the amount of onsite solar electricity that charges the vehicles, though this technology is expensive at this time. Australian startup Chargefox, whose vision is that road transport will eventually be powered by renewable energy, is rolling out super-fast chargers for electric cars. The Chargefox network will feature sites powered by the world’s first solar, battery storage and 350kW charging combination.
Depending on the size of your solar system and the energy demand from cars or other equipment/facilities connected to the solar, you may achieve a ’net zero’ result, where you generate more solar energy than is consumed by connected equipment and vehicles over a set period of time.
Where there is a shortfall between electricity produced onsite and electricity consumed to power EVs, your business can use one or more of the above strategies to achieve zero emissions.
You can also use strategies #1, #2 and #5 for claims for ‘100% renewable’. You can find out more information about the difference between carbon neutral and 100% renewable in this article.
Claiming ’zero emissions’ when charging EVs at other locations (‘offsite’)
Your EVs may need to charge at locations outside your business premises. These could include charging stations on freeways or main roads, in shopping centres and public carparks, at clients’ premises, at schools, hospitals, hotels, and at home.
Unlike petrol and diesel fleet fuel consumption, which most organisations measure through fuel card systems, electric vehicle charging is far more distributed with varying availability of data.
The two key pieces of information your business needs to make credible ’zero emissions’ claims for your EV fleet charged ’offsite’ are energy consumption, and the sources of energy generation.
Measuring energy consumption
Most EVs have the capability to track their energy consumption, and if you know how much energy went into charging from onsite locations, you may be able to derive the energy consumed from offsite locations.
Another method is to estimate the energy consumption of your EVs based on kilometres travelled and applying known or estimated energy intensity – most EVs travel 3 km to 7 km per kWh of electricity consumed. Refer to information provided by the vehicle manufacturer to estimate consumption from your particular model.
Also, if you are charging and paying for power from the emerging and growing network of EV charging stations and management systems like Charge Star, ChargePoint, Tritium, or NRMA, energy consumption and cost data will become increasingly available to users and enable better reporting of EV energy demand.
Nonetheless, it is likely that the source of some of your offsite EV energy use will be unknown, and to support credible emissions/clean energy claims it may be necessary to make reasonable estimates of energy use.
Greening your offsite EV electricity use
Even if you estimate or calculate your EV energy consumption from external charging, do you know if the electricity came from a renewable energy source or just from the mix of generation in the grid?
For example, Tesla has a global policy that where possible they will use 100% renewable power for their supercharger installations, but this will likely happen over time and may not apply to all chargers at this time.
The charging stations of Queensland’s Electric Super Highway (for travel between Cairns and Coolangatta) use green energy either through direct green energy credits or offsets.
Similarly, if you are charging at another business that sources all or most of its electricity from renewables via rooftop and/or corporate PPAs (e.g. RE100 companies such as IKEA, CBA, Mars and PwC), then its source may be partially or wholly renewable.
Even at your employees’ homes electricity for charging may come from both grid and rooftop solar, or employees may purchase GreenPower® or carbon-neutral electricity. In short, it is currently very difficult to apportion the kind of energy that is being used to charge vehicles offsite.
Apply a cautious approach
Offsite charging presents challenges when you are looking to support claims for ’zero emissions’ for your EV fleet. A cautious approach would use one of the methods outlined above to offset emissions for all of your estimated electricity consumption.
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