Currently reading: National grid will need upgrading to cope with EV demand, finds trial
My Electric Avenue trial - which involved large numbers of people running Nissan Leafs - finds that almost a third of local electricity supplies could need upgrading to handle EVs
Matt Burt
News
3 mins read
4 December 2015

Almost one-third of Britain’s local electricity networks could need upgrading if electric vehicles reach the point of mass acceptance, according to the results of a project funded by energy regulator Ofgem.

The three-year project, named My Electric Avenue, carried out trials to discover the impact that charging large numbers of electric vehicles (EVs) might have on local electricity networks at peak times.

It aimed to assess how rising sales of plug-in cars and the larger battery capacities of vehicles could impact the country’s infrastructure in the year 2030.

The project recruited clusters of neighbours around the country to drive Nissan Leaf electric cars for 18 months, with the aim of to mimicing a future scenario where many people in an area choose to use a pure electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.

It analysed the various kinds of low voltage networks in the UK and the results suggest that four types could experience issues if and when the uptake of EVs increases.

Susceptible networks are typically characterised by available capacity of less than 1.5 kW per customer. Based on 3.5kW (16 amp) charging, about 312,000 circuits – 32% of Britain’s total – will “require intervention” if the nation reaches a point where between 40% and 70% of motorists own EVs.

The intervention would normally mean the replacement of underground cables in the public highway, but the My Electric Avenue project trialled a potentially lower-cost solution in the form of ‘Esprit’.

Esprit is an piece of technology installed into the electricity network that can control the charging of EVs if the local grid reaches a certain level of demand, preventing underground cables, overhead lines and substations being potentially overloaded. Forecasts suggest that Esprit could save around £2.2bn of infrastructure reinforcement costs up to 2050.

My Electric Avenue was hosted by Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution and led by EA Technology and funded through Ofgem’s Low Carbon Networks Fund. Partners included Nissan and Ricardo, with the latter providing independent technical verification to the project.

Olivier Paturet, general manager of zero emission strategy for Nissan Europe said: "Not only has My Electric Avenue provided us with a greater understanding of the impacts of electric vehicle charging on local grids, but it has also given us a clear vision of what the streets of the future may look like.

“EV sales are increasing at a phenomenal rate in the UK and wider Europe and it’s vital that automakers continue to work closely with the energy industry to progress the EV movement.”

Stewart Reid, head of asset management and innovation at Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution added: “The project has been invaluable in showing us what challenges we are likely to face in the near future as more and more customers adopt EVs. It’s also demonstrated that 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.”

In recent years the uptake of alternatively fuelled vehicles has risen dramatically from a very low starting point. From the start of the year to the end of November, a total of 66,929 EVs, hybrids and plug-in hybrids have been registered according to the latest figures issued by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

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AHA1 7 December 2015

Plenty of ways to make EVs pay their way

It seems likely that as EVs become mainstream vehicles, the subsidies will disappear and increased charges will replace them (rather as diesel became more expensive than petrol at the pumps.) The Chancellor will have a go and the electricity generating companies will expect a return on their investment if they are building more generating capacity to meet increased demand. Just as the water utility co's are putting meters into residential properties at every opportunity, so 'EV tariffs' will follow for householders putting in charging points and up-rating to higher current supply.
Clarkey 4 December 2015

Encouraging

So that's quite encouraging then - even with mass adoption of electric cars, 2/3 of the grid would be perfectly ok and the rest can be upgraded. A far cry from creating a hydrogen infrastructure from scratch I would think.
Madasafish 5 December 2015

The grid may be OK. But the

The grid may be OK. But the power stations could not cope with a major expansion of electric power.
xxxx 7 December 2015

They've time to put up more turbines, solar cells etc

Madasafish wrote:

The grid may be OK. But the power stations could not cope with a major expansion of electric power.

If you need 18kw of power to recharge a leaf and you do it overnight, say from 10pm to 7am, then wouldn't you need the equivalent of 2kw heater being on for those 9 hours of recharge time? As the network must currently be able to generate at least 5kw for every house/flat at any one time then surely it can generate 2kw in the middle of the night for say 10% of Houses that might own an electric car in the next 10 years. Obviously if/when 80% of households have an EV then things would be different.
Just need new houses to be built with solar panels, more wind turbines and a couple of new nuclear power stations.

LP in Brighton 4 December 2015

Cheap electricity

I'm sure that the "fuel" is cheap, wherever it comes from, it's the price of the "tank" that worries me! It will be interesting to see how the government will tax electricity for road vehicles when their popularity grows. Any move to tax domestic electricity much beyond the present 5% would surely not be acceptable, and I can't see how a higher tax rate could be applied when charging is possible via a standard mains plug. But I guess that we'll have more toll roads and increased road fund license long before then.
Adrian987 4 December 2015

@LP in Brighton

Are you worried that electric could be the new "diesel"?
LP in Brighton 4 December 2015

@Adrian987

No. It's just that everyone talks about x pence per mile electricity costs, while ignoring the rental / replacement / depreciation cost of the batteries. I'm sure that, at the moment, it's the latter that is important and the electricity cost can virtually be ignored.
Adrian987 4 December 2015

Over a lifetime ownership period of 6 years

@LP in Brighton, I agree it is all too easy just to look at fuel per mile. I had a look at the Leaf site today and put in "my" details, to see what it would cost on fuel. So basically, lets say I was looking to buy a 24kwh Leaf instead of a similar sized diesel hatch to do 9,855 miles per annum (bear with me, that is average 27 per day), and assuming I get 50 mpg (which I know I can) on diesel at £1.10 per litre, my annual fuel bill for the Diesel would be £985.50. Based on my mileage and mpg, the Leaf site tells me that if I bought the battery with the car, I would have yearly savings on fuel costs of £1,066.31. That is truly amazing. But I am a bit puzzled.

If a Leaf costs 2 electric pence per mile (a figure we hear on this forum), that means 9,855 miles of electricity should cost me £197.10 per annum. So, surely, that would be a saving of only £788.40 per annum? I could hire a battery, and save £5,000 on initial outlay, but the hire would cost me £85 per month to cover my annual mileage, so that would be effectively a standing charge of £1,020 for the hire, plus £197.10 on electric fuel, total £1,217.10 per annum, but I would have some cash to invest which would provide some offset.

So, question is, after 6 years and a trading in, would I in the real world be better off with a £25k conventional car, a £25k Leaf including the battery, or a £20k Leaf with a 72 month battery rental at £85 per month plus annual electricity at £197.10 but no battery replacement cost worries (are they likely to fail though)? Would I really be better off by £1,066.31 per annum on fuel, I wonder, if I bought outright? My calculations suggest to me that rental would save me less, but there would be no battery worries). Unfortunately, my crystal ball is not working too well at the moment.

Phil R 5 December 2015

@Adrian987

I'd be tempted by one of the second hand Leaf's that are starting from 7-8k on autotrader and take the risk on the battery. Even if you did have to get one, at £4,920 you're looking at the depreciation you'd pay as you drove it off the forecourt, let alone after 6 years.
xxxx 7 December 2015

2nd hand risk on everything

Phil R wrote:

I'd be tempted by one of the second hand Leaf's that are starting from 7-8k on autotrader and take the risk on the battery. Even if you did have to get one, at £4,920 you're looking at the depreciation you'd pay as you drove it off the forecourt, let alone after 6 years.

Spending 7-8k on a car you'll be taking a risk on the engine/gearbox going bang a year or two later! A replacement diesel 2.0tdi for a Golf would probably be over £3,000 and the car would be off the road for a week

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