Currently reading: Rapid EV take-up could cause blackouts on national grid
Just six EVs on charge in one sensitive local area could cause grid overload and disrupt power supply with today’s grid, Green Alliance thinktank says
Jimi Beckwith
3 mins read
20 April 2017

Six electric vehicles (EVs) plugged in to charge at one time is enough to cause a local electricity grid overload in some areas, according to an environmental thinktank.

Fears of grid overload as the take-up of plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and fully electric vehicles accelerates have amplified, and Green Alliance now alleges that action must be taken to prepare the national grid before the UK reaches the 'EV tipping point'.

The thinktank advises that decentralisation of energy supply is necessary and that the energy supply needs to be controlled to cope with an evening spike in demand – when most drivers will arrive home from work and plug in their cars.

Electric and other alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) is the fastest-growing segment of the UK car industry; last month’s SMMT market analysis revealed that it grew by 31% compared with March 2016, and that such cars now make up 4.1% of the total market.

These are, of course, eclipsed by the 52.5% petrol and 43.4% diesel market shares, but the growth is predicted to only accelerate as consumers turn towards the benefits and financial advantages of AFVs, while diesel drivers face ever-stiffer charges for their cars’ emissions.

Green Alliance said that the public could contribute back into the grid from solar panels; according to the Green Alliance only 20% of local grids can accept this energy, but would quell the supply problem if the remaining 80% was able to take energy.

EV batteries used as energy storage may also quell the problem, says the Green Alliance, and “could store enough power to keep the UK’s lights on for 7 hours at a time by 2025”, given the right government intervention, the thinktank said. The storage would help to even out the peaks and troughs of demand, and could be recharged at off-peak times. 

Green Alliance’s acting policy director, Dustin Benton, said: “Small-scale energy is growing rapidly because consumers are choosing it, regardless of government subsidy. With the right policy, EVs and solar could help keep the lights on and cut consumer bills. Political parties need to outline how the large-scale energy the UK needs and the small scale energy people want can work better together.”

James O'Neill, UK director for Ensto EV solutions, explained that the need to upgrade to smart chargers was paramount to solving the problem, and storing the energy required to charge a car at off-peak times for usage when required would alleviate the potentially strained grid points.

"As people increase EV sales they want to charge, if they can’t charge they won’t buy an EV. We need to think about smart charging now, and hope the push to truly smart charging happens quickly." O'Neill also explained the need, given the credibility of the overload threat, for home energy storage solutions and smart home energy solutions to create micro-grids within the local grids, to better manage the energy supply and volatile demand fluctuations, as opposed to increasing it.


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20 April 2017
Maybe the government should consider a punitive tax on EVs to discourage people from buying them? That would be the normal way of solving this problem. ;-)

20 April 2017
It seems a little alarmist. Why would 6 electric cars overload the grid more than 6 electric showers, or 6 electric hobs? I know cars charge for longer, but domestic chargers top out at 6.6kW unless you have 3 phase power.


20 April 2017
But frankly it will be a long time before it really becomes an issue. The key thing to remember is that most people who charge their EVs at home do so at night on Economy 7 when there is actually least pressure on the grid. That is not to say that changes to the way we generate and distribute power aren't due.

20 April 2017
Exactly.. So many people do not realise this.

20 April 2017
The Autocar has form in regards to promoting fast (200mph?), big and noisy fossil fuel cars , even dirty diesels, so must have loved to see a 'green' organisation apparently attacking the EV revolution.
The 'green' people need to see how the National grid is moving to a 'smart grid'.
EVs are the only technology that can deliver a future where people can still have personal as well as public transport. Hybrids and plug-in hybrids are a bridging step but full EVs are so less complex to service and so easy to drive well ( carefully and safely).
I look forward to when fossil fuel cars (classics) will be taken to tracks on trailers ( EV pulled) for their bit of noisy fun.
Look at the Bentley bent-tiger diesel and laugh!

20 April 2017
This is complete and utter nonsense. As no data has been supplied in the article, I'm not bound to supply data showing it's nonsense, though 'Reasonable' (above) adequately explains why. Why is it that anything 'green' is BS?

20 April 2017
when they put their heads together, did it sound like a bowling alley? infuriatingly fact-bereft and simply incorrect.

20 April 2017
Judging by the comments, it looks like there are some seriously triggered EV owners. I'll stick with my fifteen-year-old diesel. Taxpayers should not be subsidising EVs and the autonomous vehicle industries.

20 April 2017
Haha.. solar panels will really help in the evening when most EV's are on charge... A domestic supply isn't anywhere close to being able to provide a rapid charger so as mentioned above the slow charge load will be similar to normal domestic appliances.

21 April 2017
Please , have a chat with them, the Load on on the grid is falling on an almost daily basis as personal/domestic solar and wind take up the load. March 25th was a historic day, a saturday afternoon is a peak demand time, everyones home, washer's on, TV's on Phone charging etc.... but the load on the NG was LOWER that during the previous night's off-peak period.
We are now at the point that we are voluntarily not running coal power stations for days on end because there just isn't the grid demand.
I love Autocar, but please consult the powers that be (pun kind of intended)

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