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
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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4 December 2015
Well it's pretty obvious that if large numbers of motorists start plugging in electric cars at 20 kWhr or more per charge, then something has to give. But I don't think there is any need for panic because at the current uptake it will take many years before between 40 and 70% of motorists own an electric car.
What I'd like to know is how many of the Leaf drivers in this survey have now gone on to buy or lease an electric car?

4 December 2015
I see these Leaf's were not on charge at the time of this publicity shot! None are "nose in" to the drive, which would be likely for a charge (and how "most" people park anyway in my experience). I just hope that the infrastructure copes well with adverse weather too, else we could have "sorry I could not get in to work because my battery did not charge due to power outages".

4 December 2015
Last year we bought a Renault Zoe which has 99% of the charging at home usually starting in the early evening. We have a 32 kW charger installed. As that is also the same time we are cooking dinner (electric oven) & perhaps having the tumble dryer on too we have had the house fuse upgraded to a 100A feed.

During the summer I use the car for my 60 mile return commute so was charging daily, however during the winter my wife is using it and it is only being charged twice a week.

The increase in our day time rate if we had economy 7 does more than offsets the saving by charging the car on cheap rate so there is no benefit for us to charge overnight & it is far more convenient to charge as soon as we get home in case the car is needed later on in the evening. Also if there is a connection issue you know at the time, if there is a fault while you are asleep you will be blissfully unaware that the charge has not occurred.

I agree that it would be an issue if 30% or 40% of houses have an electric car, but when that is the case the electric companies will have to offer heavily discounted overnight rates to spread demand & more reliable connection methods will be needed.

As our car even with a high speed charger uses less current than a modern electric shower I think there is capacity in the network as long as charging is off peak as the grid does not go into melt down when people have a morning shower. Very few house have storage heaters compared to what used to have 30 or so years ago so there should be off peak capacity.

4 December 2015

If you want paragraphs in your posts, you need to start each paragraph with a "p" between chevrons and end each paragraph with "/p" between chevrons. If you do a quote of my post, you should see what I mean.

Very interested in your real world experiences with Zoe, by the way, nice to hear from real experience rather that speculative stuff (from likes of me included!).

4 December 2015
Sorry for the long spiel, honest I did break it into paragraphs!!!

4 December 2015
It's entirely sensible to have a trial to identify the problems long before they arise - and it should be borne in mind that it will be years before we get anywhere near 10% electric cars never mind 40%+. Bit puzzled by the reference to some houses only having 1.5kw supplies. How do they boil a kettle? Did a quick Google and the typical minimum kettle is 2kw max 3kw...

4 December 2015
Yes, the article doesn't explain this. I suspect it means that the averaged out capacity is 1.5kW per house, which is probably sufficient. Obviously if everyone were to turn their 3kW kettle on (or plug in their electric car) simultaneously, then the supply could not cope. Interesting comment re Economy 7 not being viable because of the price increase of the daytime rate. I guess this is the first thing that would need to be fixed to encourage owners to charge up at night - and so even out the demand for electricity over a 24 hour period.

4 December 2015
they didn't ask the users what they thought about running an electric car. I'm sure it would be positive, Mr Mondeal would you buy another? and does it work out at 0.02 p a mile in 'fuel'?

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

4 December 2015
they didn't ask the users what they thought about running an electric car. I'm sure it would be positive, Mr Mondeal would you buy another? and does it work out at 0.02 p a mile in 'fuel'?

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

4 December 2015
It won't be cheap for long! As soon as the government start losing tax on fuel they will start to tax electricity at the same rate


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