In 2019, we conducted an acceleration program for Enel Group, an international company engaged in the production and distribution of electricity and gas. At the Demo Day in Rome, the best startups presented their solutions, including an innovative coating that extends the life of solar panels, and a pipeline control robot, and various video analytics systems. With some of the startups, the company is now conducting pilot tests, the results of which will make it clear whether the solution may be scaled to other Enel production facilities or not. By the way, the company has 10 innovation hubs around the world. Impressive, right?
The Enel Group is represented in 32 countries on 5 continents with an installed electrical capacity of around 89 GW.
But the company has another very interesting direction, which is connected with electric vehicles. Today we are asking #20 questions to Alexey Leonov, General Director of Enel X Rus LLC. Let's talk about charging stations, the concept of "smart home" and the demand for electric vehicles in Russia.
Enel X is Enel Group's global business line dedicated to accelerating innovation and driving the energy transition. The company is a global leader in the advanced energy solutions sector, providing services such as demand management of more than 7.7 GW globally and managing approximately 195 MW of energy storage facilities installed worldwide. In addition, the company is a leading operator in the EV charging infrastructure sector with around 245,000 EV charging points worldwide.
Enel X's subsidiary in Russia is Enel X Rus LLC. The company is engaged in the development of charging infrastructure for electric vehicles and other advanced technological solutions in the field of energy efficiency. As part of the e-Mobility direction (charging infrastructure), Enel X Rus LLC presents various types of charging stations for electric vehicles.
In Russia, Enel X is primarily developing the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. Now more than 20 Enel X public charging stations have been installed in Moscow, Chelyabinsk, Novokuznetsk, Krasnoyarsk, Gorno-Altaisk and the Far East. The charging station, recently opened in Teriberka, has become the northernmost Enel X station not only in Russia, but also in the world.
Enel X does not currently have any charging infrastructure operations in its plans, we are a solution provider. Our clients are primarily companies developing their own networks of charging stations.
The company is developing a network of distributors selling Enel X charging stations. Among other things, we also sell home charging stations to individuals through these distributors. For example, a JuiceBox charging station for private use is available for buyers in Russia. For modern electric vehicles, the charge received in 1 hour at this station will be enough for about 50–100 km. The device uses the generally accepted Type 2 connector and fully complies with international standards. JuiceBox can be installed in a private home or a garage and is much more convenient to use than the traditional "plug-in" method.
The main functionality of our stations — both private and public — is similar to stations from other manufacturers: you insert the gun into an electric car, activate a charging session via an RFID card or a mobile application. Additional functionality is associated with smart charging software, which enables to dynamically change the supplied power at the station through a cloud server, depending on the needs of the charging station operator. This helps to avoid overloading electrical networks, reduce the connection fee, and use the most favorable rates – for example, by shifting the time of the charging session to the period of the nightly electricity rate.
If we talk about Russia, there are two groups of owners of electric vehicles among individuals. The first is wealthy Russians who want to join global trends. They buy a premium electric car for themselves as the second or third in the family, the fact of economic feasibility is often secondary for them. The second group are people of lower income who are interested in saving. For such people, buying a new car at the moment will not bring the proper economic effect: the difference in the purchase price with an ICE-analogue without subsidies as in Europe is still too high. However, such customers often buy used electric vehicles for short distances. In such cases, savings in ownership are already being realized: many used electric vehicles imported from abroad are sold at an attractive price, and the replacement of gasoline with electricity can significantly reduce the overall cost of using private transport. In addition, savings come from lower maintenance costs due to the design of the electric vehicle.
In the commercial segment, there is also emerging demand for light motor vehicles and electric vans, mostly companies and municipalities seeking to “green” their business. There is interest from taxis and carsharing.
In any case, global trends to reduce the cost of electric vehicles in 2–3 years can provide economically justified demand from both private motorists and commercial vehicle fleets.
In Russia, unlike Europe, there are no subsidies for owners of electric vehicles, and so far, only in exceptional cases, the total cost of owning an electric car can be comparable to the cost of owning a car with an internal combustion engine, if we are talking about new electric vehicles. In Russia, only a few brands of electric vehicles are officially sold, but you can roughly estimate the difference in price — up to 1.5 million rubles for the middle class and up to 2 million rubles for the premium class. This difference will decrease as local production is established, and we are seeing announcements of such plans from a number of manufacturers, which is a very positive sign.
Now the situation is not entirely in favor of new electric vehicles in Russia, but, nevertheless, given the global trends towards a decrease in the cost of electric vehicles, we believe that parity in the total cost of ownership will be reached in 2–3 years, which will lead to an increase in the attractiveness of owning an electric car.
There are about one and a half thousand public charging stations in Russia, but the number will increase rapidly: today we see how the demand for equipment is growing significantly.
In Russia, we expect, on the one hand, the development of a network of fast chargers from 150 kW as part of the state program for the development of electric transport, primarily on federal highways, and the development of charging stations of various types within cities. For urban infrastructure, we see a growing interest in smart charging technologies that enable to optimize the cost of connecting power, which is an important factor for owners of charging infrastructure not only in Russia, but also in the world.
We have charging stations of our own production and partner charging stations, which Enel X adapts to its internal requirements and the requirements of a specific market. At the same time, Enel X Rus only sells stations in Russia, we do not have our own networks of charging stations.
Since we are not operators of the charging infrastructure, the regions are chosen by the end customer. For example, our charging stations on the networks of RusHydro are located in the Far East, and on the networks of Rosseti — in the Urals and Siberia.
Yes, there is ongoing research in this area. Several alternative technologies are now being considered in the world for charging electric vehicles, including replacing the battery with a new one at certain points. However, the replacement technology is significantly more expensive and is likely to remain a niche for a number of EV models, unless there are significant subsidies. The priority use of battery replacement technology is for electric buses in electric bus fleets.
Technologies related to mobile charging and charging with integrated or external energy storage are also developing. So far, this is also a relatively expensive pleasure, but the trend towards lowering the cost of batteries and accumulators, as well as the use of used batteries of electric vehicles in accumulators, enables us to be optimistic about the economics of such solutions.
In Russia, the main direction is the charging infrastructure. In terms of other Enel X solutions, we are in "scouting" mode.
It's been a reality for several years now. Smart solutions are also offered on a turnkey basis in new residential buildings.
At this stage, Enel X smart home solutions are not offered in Russia. European solutions, which also include smart home heating, are not in demand in Russia, since most of the population lives in apartment buildings with centralized heating.
As with any commercial organization, the key to success is achieving business targets and financial stability. However, in the case of innovation, we are well aware that it may take several years until the market capacity becomes satisfactory for a particular solution. Therefore, a constructive dialogue with business and executive authorities, assistance in energy transition, and the introduction of new technologies play an important role at the initial stage. The Enel Group is one of the world leaders in energy transformation, and part of the success lies precisely in a reasonable and balanced approach to the development of new directions. Therefore, the success metrics for Enel X are not limited to financial reporting; the role of the company in the development of innovative technologies in the region as a whole is no less important, especially at the stage of their formation.
In our country, energy and electricity prices are significantly lower than, say, in Europe, so the optimal consumption of resources does not always play a decisive role in the success of a particular business. Cross-subsidization also affects the awareness of household consumption of resources. However the situation is changing. Russia has assumed climate obligations, and the high energy intensity of the Russian economy is certainly a serious challenge for all participants in the energy transition process in our country. However, it can be assumed that a significant part of the path to be taken is primarily associated with a change in the culture of energy consumption. We see that the issue of improving energy efficiency is often solved by changing internal processes without the need for significant investments, and more and more companies are thinking about this and implementing relevant projects. Such optimization of energy consumption, together with flexible management, also makes it possible to optimize infrastructure investments: for example, dynamic power distribution plus energy optimization in some cases enables to install charging stations without increasing the power connected to the facility.
The culture of responsible and environmentally friendly consumption of resources penetrates not only the business community, but is also instilled to people. Already today, part of the population is making concrete efforts to consume electricity wisely and reduce the ecological footprint. This trend will only intensify in the coming years.