If nothing is done, it is expected that demand on both networks will double at peak periods once the mass roll-out of EVs begins, causing serious problems.
National Grid predicts that 50% of all new cars will be plug-in hybrid or fully electric by 2030 and that there will be 35 million EVs on UK roads by 2050.
In the short to medium term, it is predicted that overloading the network in peak periods can be avoided by smart charging. Smart chargers fall under the control of network operators and each charger can be told when to begin charging to spread the load on the networks into low-peak times. Successful trials over the past few years have established that consumers have no concerns with the time of day their EV gets charged, particularly because it usually happens overnight.
The time shift can be overridden for urgent use and chargers potentially controlled by the consumer via an app.
The Automated and Electric Vehicles (AEV) Act of 2018 mandates the transition to a smart domestic charging infrastructure. As of 1 July last year, all new domestic chargers must be smart to qualify for support from the government’s Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme.
The overall balance of energy use in the UK is expected to change, leading eventually to a reduction in consumption due to increased efficiency. One key example is a dramatic shift in the way homes are heated, raising the efficiency of homes to EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) class C or higher, and the rolling out of at least 2.5 million domestic heat pump systems by 2030.
Hydrogen is expected to play a big part, mainly in heating. The idea is that electricity is used to reform natural gas to produce hydrogen in conjunction with CCUS (carbon capture, usage and storage) to neutralise CO2 from the hydrogen manufacturing process. All household and industrial boilers would eventually need to switch to hydrogen, emitting no CO2 and minimising the use of electricity.
Even with smart charging, demand for electricity will increase again as EV numbers grow, but that is expected to be offset by the roll-out of vehicle-to-grid charging. This will allow vehicles charged at low-peak prices to transfer energy to the home during more expensive peak periods, reducing the load on power generation stations during those times.
Ultra-rapid public chargers should help quell fears of range anxiety and lack of convenience for prospective EV buyers. BP Chargemaster has already begun the roll-out of 400 ultra-fast 150kW chargers planned by next year. These are capable of delivering a 100-mile range top-up in 10 minutes. National Grid also proposes the creation of ultra-rapid charger clusters (150kW-350kW) at motorway service areas. According to its 2019 FES, National Grid has already identified 54 sites that, it says, would put 99% of EV drivers within 50 miles of a cluster at any time.