The need for urgent investment in Britain’s electricity network to cope with the rise in popularity of plug-in vehicles has been highlighted once more in a new report.
With pure-electric passenger car registrations rising by 144 per cent in 2019 and due to soar in the coming years, the Electric Vehicle Energy Task Force claims the national grid will crumble under increased demand for power.
It warned ministers who commissioned the report that without a ‘smart charging’ infrastructure in place, there is a real risk of blackouts across the country in the future – similar to those that left 1million Britons without power in August.
Demand on the grid: Experts have warned the government that the electricity network needs urgent upgrades in order to cope with the rising number of electric cars entering the market
The report, Energising Our Electric Vehicle Transition, was produced for the Office for Low Emission Vehicles.
It warned: ‘The infrastructure spending required to prepare the UK electricity networks for the electric vehicle transition is likely to run to tens of billions of pounds.’
However, it added: ‘…the Taskforce believes this cost can be significantly reduced if the right decisions are made and the transition is effectively coordinated between government and key energy, infrastructure and transport industry stakeholders.
‘A prior study put this figure at between £2.7billion and £6.5billion.’
For the electricity network to cope with the increasing volume of pure electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles charging from the grid, the task force recommended that a ‘smart’ approach was integrated into the system.
This would mean an infrastructure and power network that utilises periods of weak demand and manages times of high use.
Among the recommendations made by the group, experts said there must be a greater emphasis on power storage to support the grid as part of the investment.
The report added: ‘The electricity produced by generators, or supplied from storage devices, must exactly balance the demand for electricity on a second-by-second basis.
‘This is generally referred to as maintaining system stability. If this balance is not maintained the system can fail.’
One million people were left without power during blackouts last August, caused when generators went down simultaneously due to imbalance in the electricity network
Last August nearly a million people lost electricity supply after generators went down at the same time due to such cases of imbalance in the electricity network.
‘In a future with smart EV chargers, the chargers could react to imbalances of this kind and reduce demand automatically,’ the report explains.
‘This could be a valuable protection to the system as non-critical load would be reduced, therefore minimising disruption to other system users.’
Further recommendations to minsters included:
• Ensuring that EV drivers, electricity consumers and the energy system benefit from the integration of EVs and the energy system.
• Providing financial incentives to EV drivers to ensure that the potential energy storage capacity of millions of electric vehicles is used to reduce peak demand.
• Prioritising greater standardisation across the charging network to ensure it works resiliently, efficiently and securely with the electricity system.
• Establishing an independent body to promote the benefits of smart charging through a major publicity campaign to ensure EV drivers are confident and well informed.
• Extending the principle of ‘open data’ in the energy system to include EV charge points and EVs to allow more effective smart charging of EVs.
• Co-ordinating energy and transport planning to ensure we have the right infrastructure in the right place.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said it is expecting 23 new battery-powered car models to hit UK showrooms this year
Just 1.6% of all new cars sold last year were electric. That might not sound much but it was a 144% rise compared to 2018
With plug-in vehicles growing in popularity, the strain on the grid will continue to intensify as motorists move away from traditional cars with internal combustion engines, especially diesels.
Currently, pure-electric models make up just a 1.6 per cent of the 2.3million new vehicles registered in 2019.
Some 37,850 battery electric cars were bought by Britons last year, on top of the 34,734 hybrids that can be plugged into the grid.
According to exclusive data given to This is Money, Birmingham saw the biggest rise in electric vehicle uptake, with ownership increasing by 527 per cent in the first 9 months of last year.
Governments are being tasked to encourage the uptake of low emission vehicles in efforts to improve air quality and fight climate change.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said it expects 23 new battery-powered car models to hit UK showrooms this year.
It has also called for government help to ensure drivers can made the transition from vehicles that are refueled at the pump to those that can be topped up at the socket.
Mike Hawes, chief executive at the motor industry body, said: ‘We urgently need more supportive policies: investment in infrastructure; broader measures to encourage uptake of the latest, low and zero emission cars; and long term purchase incentives to put the UK at the forefront of this technological shift.’
He added: ‘Industry is playing its part with a raft of exciting new models in 2020 and compelling offers but consumers will only respond if economic confidence is strong and the technology affordable.’
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