UK energy system can cope with rise of battery-powered vehicles if 4-6pm slot avoided, says report
The UK energy system will be able to cope with the extra demand caused by the uptake of millions of electric cars, provided drivers shift their charging to off-peak times, according to new research.
The number of battery-powered cars on Britain’s roads will grow from around 120,000 today to 10m by 2035 and pass the 17m mark five years later, predicted Aurora Energy Research.
If those millions of drivers return home from work and charge their cars immediately during the peak hours of 4-6pm, that would add around 3GW, the equivalent capacity of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, to peak power demand.
The report said the alternative to that “dumb” scenario is “smart” charging, where car owners are encouraged to use cheaper tariffs at off-peak times or relinquish control of their charging to an energy firm. That scenario would add just 0.5GW of peak demand.
“There are many scare stories out there suggesting our power system cannot cope with the growth in electric vehicles. On the contrary, our research suggests that, provided EV charging is smart, the GB power system can easily accommodate 15m-plus electric cars,” said Richard Howard, head of research at Aurora.
He said the extra peak demand in a smart world was an insignificant increase, but it could not be taken for granted that motorists would change their habits.
“You need to have the technology in place and suppliers offering tariffs and behavioural change. There is also a role for government,” he said.
Smart charging could help drivers’ wallets too, costing them £110 a year to power their car by exploiting cheaper times of day, versus £280 for charging at peak times.
Howard admitted that most chargers today are “dumb” and the technology for smart charging will not arrive for the next two to three years, but said he was confident that it would happen.
“To an extent it’s fine [that it’s dumb] because there’s still only 120,000 electric cars on the road. But when you get to millions you have to have it right, and normalise it from the start.”