With numbers expected to reach 17 million by 2030, the presence of electric vehicles on UK roads is here to stay.
The UK Government intends to stop all sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040, meaning electric vehicles (EVs) will undoubtedly contribute to a decarbonised transport system. However, some news reports have fueled concerns over how national and local electricity grids will cope with the additional energy needs of EVs.
Claims that the UK national grid is in danger of crashing under increased strain, or that drivers will be forced to choose between charging their car or boiling the kettle to avoid a power outage have cast doubts over the practicalities of abandoning fossil fuel-powered vehicles in favour of EVs.
These fears are not totally unfounded. Currently, the UK uses 45 billion litres of liquid fuel, such as petrol of diesel, per year. In order to power a rising number of EVs, this needs to be put into the electricity system. With the 25 million electric vehicles predicted to be on UK roads by 2050 requiring 35 terawatt hours of extra electricity per year, it is clear that extra energy is needed to meet this increase in demand.
However, a number of new initiatives could offer a solution. Speaking at TechXLR8, part of London Tech Week 2018, director of electric vehicles at OVO energy, Tom Packenham, shared that he believes new technology is key to transforming the UK electricity grid into one that is compatible with the future of electric automation:
“At our current generating capacity it would crash the grid. However that is not how we are going to run the grid in the future. How we’re going to run the grid in the future is that we’re going to spread out the load. We’re going to have to implement technological solutions across a variety of software and hardware on across a variety of different levels to make sure that we don’t turn everything on at the same time.”
EVs and smart charging
On average, the UK grid currently runs a power consumption of about 30 gigawatts (gw). At peak times it runs a lot higher, reaching a peak of 61gw in 2016. This means that the added electricity requirements of EVs, especially at times when a lot of vehicles are being charged simultaneously, could put considerable strain on the electricity grid, particularly local substations.
The only person who got all his work done by Friday was Robinson Crusoe