Huge changes are needed in the energy system and in transport infrastructure to deal with the challenges posed by the foreseen increase in the use of electric vehicles, especially as battery technology improves and consumer resistance is overcome. The UK Government has announced a ban on petrol and diesel car sales from 2040, by which time there could be as many as 36 million electric vehicles (EVs) on the roads in the UK.
As the number of EVs increases, their peak time electricity demand is one of the challenges that will need to be met. For example, one scenario suggests that EVs will create an extra 18GW of demand by 2050 – that’s equivalent to an extra 30% on top of today’s peak demand.
The UK National Grid, whose job is to connect millions of homes and businesses to the energy they use, are working on a number of ideas including the following.
A network of ultra-rapid chargers
The UK will only achieve large scale uptake of electric vehicles if there is a widespread network of vehicle charging points, which are easily accessible, and can charge a vehicle at a speed appropriate to the time spent at a given location.
The National Grid are exploring how to support a network of transmission-connected ultra-rapid chargers at key strategic locations e.g. motorway services.
They are crucial for ‘range-anxiety’ and journey planning, enabling the electric vehicle (EV) market to expand quickly and successfully.
The Grid estimate that an investment of $500 million to £1 billion will be needed to pay for a network of 50 high-powered charging points putting 95% of drivers in England and Wales within 50 miles of one of them.
Manage when vehicles are charged
The National Grid want to help manage when electric vehicles are charged. ‘Smart charging’ will smooth demand on the electricity system.
It will ensure that increases at peak times remain manageable and it will also make best-use of existing generation capacity.
Ensuring that EVs help balance the electricity system
When plugged-in, EVs could provide flexibility to help balance the supply and demand of electricity, potentially reducing costs for consumers.
This could also include using EVs to supply electricity from their batteries back to the grid, known as ‘vehicle-to-grid’ (V2G).