Innovative steps are being taken by UK Power Networks to create the UK’s first smart charging market for electric vehicle drivers.
Putting electric vehicle drivers in control through the new market, UK Power Networks’ ambition is to enable EV users to charge with the flexibility of traditional fossil fuel-based vehicle users in addition to rewarding people who are willing to charge their vehicles outside peak demand hours (typically the morning and evening).
For energy companies, the challenge as more electric vehicles enter service is to mitigate the strain on the electricity network as filling up a typical electric vehicle on a fast charger consumes around the same amount of electricity as a house would use at the peak time of the day. Clusters of EV drivers all wanting to charge their cars at the same time will inevitably place significant demand on the local energy infrastructure.
UK Power Networks’ innovation has seen it develop new ways of managing this additional electricity demand through smart charging. This will accomplish two clear benefits: bills will be lower because new infrastructure won’t need to be installed.
For its SmartCar project, UK Power Networks has commissioned independent research on how smart charging (moving charging away from peak times in weekday evenings) can help avoid an increase in peak demand.
Last year, the company said it had more than 30,000 electric vehicles connected to its networks and by 2030 anticipates that figure will grow to between 1.2-1.9m. Many of these electric vehicles will be V2G capable and could be used to support delivering electricity reliably and at the lowest possible cost.
Extensive engagement undertaken as part of the project with stakeholders ranging from electricity suppliers, vehicle manufacturers, charge point operators and aggregators found significant support for progressing smart charging trials.
“Enabling all customers to share in the savings generated by not having to build as much new electricity infrastructure could cut the cost of operating electric vehicles,” said Ian Cameron, head of innovation at UK Power Networks.
Smart charging is about promoting choice for consumers and offering incentives to change their charging patterns, he added. “We believe smart charging will enable us to support the uptake of electric vehicles across our networks at the lowest possible cost to customers.
“However, incentives from networks will not by themselves change people’s charging habits – it will need a mix of lower energy costs from retailers plus the reduced network cost incentives.
“There are several ways that we as electricity networks could approach the challenge of electric vehicles, one of which could be by installing failsafe technical network protection technology.
“We listened to what the industry and stakeholders told us and set out on an alternative path. A smart charging market gives consumers more choice. It’s the more challenging approach, but it’s also the right thing to do by our customers.”
A recent study revealed electric vehicle smart charging will save customers a significant amount of money. Indeed, smart charging in London, for example, could cut the cost of investing in the electricity network to enable the move to zero-emission taxis in the city by as much as 70%.
Without smart charging for electric black cabs and minicabs the demand from charge points could add 220MW – equivalent to more than 130,000 new homes – to demand levels across London, the East and South East by 2033.
Licence requirements mean that new black cabs will need to be zero-emission capable from 2018 and the same for new mini cabs from 2023. The measures support the ambition in the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy that all taxis, private hire vehicles and public sector car fleets will be zero emission capable by 2033.
The study proves that smart charging, which encourages drivers to plug in to charge their vehicle outside peak electricity demand times, can help improve the city’s air quality in a cost-efficient way.
Trials are beginning to test and develop different approaches to smart charging as part of an innovation project called “Shift.” UK Power Networks will assess the technical and commercial requirements to enable the benefits of smart charging to be realised for UK consumers.