Smart Charging the key to the extra 18GW required for electric cars by 2050

Electric vehicles could create an additional peak electricity demand of up to 18GW by 2050, equivalent to an additional 30 per cent on top of today’s peak demand of 60 GW, according to one scenario in National Grid’s recently published ‘Future Energy Scenarios’ (FES).

In all the scenarios bar one, the report predicts a dramatic rise in electric vehicles (EVs), with sales being more than 90 per cent of all cars by 2050.  The Electric Nation project is trialing a smart charging solution to the potential challenge of EVs charging at home at peak times on local electricity networks.

British roads will be home to more than one million electric cars by 2022 according to charging infrastructure provider Chargemaster.  Allowing for a modest increase in adoption, Chargemaster’s projection is based on a growth in electric vehicles of just over 7% of new car registrations.

David Martell, Chief Executive of Chargemaster said:

“We have seen tremendous growth in the uptake of electric cars over the past five years, as they’ve become more competitive in terms of costs, and more practical in terms of range. The number of EVs on UK roads has increased from fewer than 2,000 in July 2012 to more than 100,000 today. We expect the UK electric vehicle  to rise to more than one million by the middle 2022, but it could grow to as much as 1.4 million.

Over the next five years, a significant number of new models will have a range of more than 200 miles, with a lower purchase price than their earlier vehicles. Consumers will also be able to choose from larger range of electric vehicles, from manufacturers including Audi, BMW, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Volvo, as well as significant new models such as the Jaguar I-PACE and Tesla Model 3.”

In preparation for such growth the Electric Nation project is the world’s largest trial of its kind, installing smart charger for up to 700 electric vehicle drivers, with 250 installations completed so far. One such electric car driver is Keith McLean, a former Mayor of Milton Keynes who had his free home smart charger installed at the end of March 2017.

Keith explains why he joined the project:

“I signed up to the Electric Nation project because I believed this was an important piece of research to enable the growth in the number of electric vehicles in the UK. The smart charger, which was provided free through the project, has charged my BMW i3 quickly and effectively. There have been a few requirements such as the need to take part in surveys, but these have all been part of the process involved in a trial that is aiming to learn new ways of doing things.”

A number of smart charging projects have taken place in the Netherlands over the past few years, with the broad objectives of minimising charging at peak times in the grid and maximising the use of renewable energy. Projects include reducing charge speeds at peak times, enabling end users to opt to charge based on the availability of locally-produced renewable energy, and having EV charging infrastructure in combination with battery storage and solar PV.

The UK Government has ambitious targets for the uptake of EVs, and sales are currently increasing at a rapid rate. An electric vehicle can more than double the demand on the local electricity network from a home when charging at peak times. If many homes in a local area adopt EVs, and they all charge at peak times, then the local electricity network will need greater capacity and intelligence.

The costs to reinforce such local networks – e.g. through replacing cables, overhead lines or substation equipment – has been estimated to be at least £2.2 billion by 2050. However it is expected that such costs could be reduced by the widespread adoption of smart chargers by customers willing to be flexible about when, or how quickly, their cars are charged.

The Founder of driveEV. A driving and new technology fan enjoying learning all about the future of motoring. I drive a BMW i3.