My Electric Avenue has been examining the impact of electric vehicles on the local electricity network, and has released its main findings at the Cenex LCV2015 event. One of the key points to emerge from the project shows that some local electricity networks will need investment to support the high growth of EVs.
The good news is that this situation can now be managed without the need to install as many new underground cables as would have been the case just a few years ago, but for this solution to work, it will need car manufacturers and the energy industry to work together much more closely.
One way to avoid this need to install new cables can be found in Esprit, an innovative piece of technology which has been trialled in the My Electric Avenue project over the past 18 months. Esprit can control the charging of EVs if the local electricity grid reaches a certain level of demand. By incorporating Esprit into networks, the project is the first real life trial that directly controls domestic EV charging to prevent underground cables, overhead lines and substations being potentially overloaded.
My Electric Avenue has been working with specially created clusters of neighbours around the country who have all been driving Nissan LEAF electric cars for the last 18 months. This has been carried out to mimic a future scenario where many people in an area choose to use a pure electric vehicle (EV) or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV).
Due to the diverse nature of the UK’s landscapes, the logistics behind the country’s electricity networks is just as wide-ranging, for example the lines, cables and wires in an urban area are different in make-up to those in a rural village or a residential suburb. The My Electric Avenue project has shown that electricity networks can typically cope with between 30 and 50% of customers having EVs before additional investment is required.
“Whilst these levels of EV and PHEV uptake sound high in the short term, ownership of such vehicles is expected to cluster, with certain people / demographics living in similar areas choosing these vehicles ahead of others” says My Electric Avenue Project Director, Dave Roberts from EA Technology.
Now in its third and final year, My Electric Avenue is disseminating its findings so that energy companies, car manufacturers and others can learn from the project.
The outputs are timely and action is now required from the car industry and the energy sector because latest figures show that sales of plug-in cars are growing at an increasing rate. By the end of June 2015, electric car registrations for the period January-June 2015 had reached 14,586, surpassing the total for all of 2014. The figures show that electric vehicle registrations are up 256% year-on-year; this equates to UK consumers buying an electric vehicle every 18 minutes.
Dave Roberts continues “The UK is committed to encouraging the take-up of more plug-in cars. My Electric Avenue has shown that some local electricity networks will require investment if multiple electric vehicles are charging at the same time. Thankfully, the project has also shown that there is a technological solution to this problem, but we now need the car industry and the energy industry to work with each other to agree on ways to implement solutions in a timely manner.”
Stewart Reid, Head of Asset Management and Innovation at Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution explains: “This is an interesting challenge, as consumer behaviour and uptake can be notoriously difficult to predict and we need to ensure our networks can cope with the array of new demands placed on them. My Electric Avenue is an important project for us, as it is both helping to understand the problem and looking into a cost-effective solution that can be deployed at speed when the time comes.”
Robert Tweedie, EV Manager, Nissan Motor (GB) Ltd, adds: “My Electric Avenue has driven home the importance of collaboration between the automotive and energy utility sectors. We are delighted that the Nissan LEAF has played such a pivotal role in this pioneering project, by engaging communities and supporting the electricity networks of the future.”