The Rise of EV

Charger plugged into electric vehicle

It has been an exciting, almost pivotal, few years for electric vehicles (EVs) and it’s hard to ignore the claims that we are now reaching the tipping point where EVs become mainstream – from the sheer volume of articles in the press, to the video and TV coverage, and even the sight of them quietly passing by on the roads, the evidence is there for all to see.  

 

In only six years we’ve gone from having a little over 100 EVs on our roads to 81,000 – a phenomenal rate which makes me think of the mobile phone industry and the six years following the launch of the first full colour display phone in 2001: large year-on-year increases in ownership quickly moving them into the mainstream. But do you know what happened after those six years of continual uptake? Another step-change in technology was introduced – the iPhone. And you don’t need me to tell you the impact that had on society and its use of mobile phones –  81% of UK adults now own a smartphone.

 

We saw from the forecast EV uptake figures being produced in 2010 that we needed to start planning for a similar paradigm shift in vehicle ownership, so we decided to test what the impact widespread adoption of EVs would have on our low voltage networks, and if we could use a technology to manage EV charging at times of peak demand to protect the network. As a result our flagship project on EVs, My Electric Avenue, was conceived.

 

I think it’s important I highlight how our work on EVs is progressing, and show how our projects interlink to complement one another.

 

My Electric Avenue

After three years of trials the headline figure from the My Electric Avenue project was that 30% of the low voltage networks in GB will need upgrading to cope with 40-70% of customers charging their EV at home. This presents a significant challenge not just for us, but for all DNOs, as these EV networks can be found across the entire country. But let us not forget that there’s also a flip-side to this headline – that 70% of the networks will be able to cope with most customers charging their EVs.

 

Crucially, the technology being trialled worked as planned and showed that when the networks were strained it could manage the charging and protect the network, whilst still ensuring the EVs were fully charged by the following morning. Customers were happy with the solution too, realising that a small adjustment to their charging duration was unlikely to affect them and would ensure there was no chances of the homes in the street losing power.

 

With this in mind, and the analysis showing protecting the networks in this way could avoid a staggering £2.2bn being spent on reinforcement, we decided to look at what steps we would need to take to put managed EV charging solutions in place ready for the EV market’s "iPhone moment" to arrive.

 

Next steps

Three key areas were identified as being essential to moving the solution into what we call ‘business as usual’: the need to agree across industries on technical standards for communicating with and controlling EVs; policy and regulatory support to roll out the solution; and customer acceptance of it. 

 

I will be covering off these next steps in further blogs, which will appear in the coming weeks.

 

 

 

About the author

Picture of Richard Hartshorn

Richard Hartshorn

Richard is Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks' EV Readiness Manager.

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