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Electricity network faces strain from growth in electric vehicles

One third of low voltage (LV) feeders, equating to 312,000 circuits across the UK, will not be able to cope with the growth in the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), research suggests.

The study, by My Electric Avenue, has shown that issues arise when 40-70% of customers have EVs, based on 3.5kW (16 amp) charging. Susceptible networks are typically characterised by available capacity of less than 1.5 kW per customer.

Traditionally, these findings would mean the replacement of underground cables however My Electric Avenue has been trialling a lower cost solution to this in the form of ‘Esprit’.

Esprit is a piece of technology that can control the charging of EVs if the local electricity grid reaches a certain level of demand.

By incorporating Esprit into networks, the project is the first real-life trial that has directly controlled domestic EV charging to prevent underground cables, overhead lines and substations being potentially overloaded.

Forecasts suggest that Esprit could save around £2.2 billion of reinforcement costs up to 2050. However, for this solution to work, car manufacturers and the energy industry will need to work together more closely.

Stewart Reid, head of Asset Management and Innovation at Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution, said: “There is a solution which is capable of helping us overcome these challenges before they affect our customers.

“With new vehicles due to place even greater demands on our networks, we are conscious of the need for both ourselves and the automotive industry to share our learning, challenges and innovations with one another.

“We are excited at this prospect, which will allow the decarbonisation of our respective industries to continue at pace.”

My Electric Avenue is a three-year Ofgem-funded project that has been carrying out trials to discover the impact that charging clusters of EVs might have on local electricity networks at peak times.

As sales of plug-in cars continue to rise, and as EVs gain ever-larger battery capacities, the trial results show that collaborative action will be needed by the energy and automotive industries to support the growing demand for EV charging in some areas of the UK, and that some of the smart solutions that the industry is developing can help.

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  • Atilla - 09/12/2015 22:35

    Or you could say the grid can cope until at least 40% of cars are EVs, when 2/3 of feeders will still cope. Why so negative? If this is from a press release, what happened to your Journalistic superpowers of critical thinking?