Smart charging to enable 11 million EVs by 2030 with limited impact on grid

The increased peak demand from as many as 11 million electric vehicles on UK roads by 2030 could be just 8GW thanks to the use of smart charging technologies, according to National Grid’s latest forecasts.

The much-anticipated Future Energy Scenarios 2018 was launched today, outlining a range of four potential scenarios for the future of the UK energy system.

Across all of them, electricity demand is expected to grow significantly by 2050, particularly from 2030s onwards, driven by increased electrification of transport, with heat contributing to this in some cases.

However, National Grid revealed that the emergence of smart charging will mitigate the impact on the grid of these millions of vehicles by shifting demand out of peak periods.

The transmission system operator expects the majority of additional peak demand from EVs will come from the non-commercial fleet, as these tend to be driven during the day and plugged in to charge during the evening peak.

By using smart charging technology to shift this charging to cheaper and less constrained overnight periods, National Grid expects peak demand to increase by between 2.8-8.1GW depending on take-up.

After 2030, vehicle-to-grid (V2G) will begin to offer additional levels of support, with as much as 21GW of flexibility available for the UK’s fleet of EVs under National Grid’s most ambitious ‘Community Renewables’ scenario.

This is a significant change from 2017’s FES outlook, which suggested the additional system-wide peak electricity demand from electric vehicles would range from 6 to 18GW in 2050, with 30GW given as a ‘worst case’ scenario where no smart charging is used.

However, since last year the government has revealed legislation to mandate that all EV chargers sold in the UK will be ‘smart-capable’, meaning they will be able to interact with third parties such as network operators to manage charging demand.

The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – working with the Office for Low Emission Vehicles and Innovate UK – also awarded nearly £30 million to over 20 V2G projects back in January, suggesting there will be a role for the technology in the future that was not clear last year.

Taking this into account, National Grid expects V2G to play a minor but complimentary role in reducing the impact of EVs on the grid.

As the sector progresses to 2050, drivers are expected to play a significantly active role in managing the demand from their vehicles. Even under the least optimistic scenario of ‘Steady Progression’, almost two thirds (61%) of EV drivers are expected to shift their charging out of peak times.

This will allow for greater penetration of renewables, according to National Grid UK system operator director Fintan Slye, who explained that the growth of EVs and the correct charging techniques to support this will go “hand-in-hand” with decarbonisation.

“Smart charging and V2G actively support the decarbonisation of electricity, providing flexibility to the energy system. Our scenarios suggest that by 2030 there could be as many as 11 million EVs on the road and by 2040 this could increase to 36 million. Coupled with the electrification of heating, total electricity demand will increase significantly as we progress towards 2050,” he said.

“However, with smart charging and V2G technologies the actual increase in peak demand over that period could be actually as little as 8GW in 2040. As EV growth increases, they can support increasing volumes of renewables by storing excess low carbon generation and providing it back to the system when it’s needed. To make this a reality though will require coordinated thinking across energy and transport.”

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