A three year Ofgem-funded project known as My Electric Avenue analysed the grid impact of clusters of neighbours around the country who drove Nissan LEAF electric cars.

The researchers, including energy companies and EV manufacturers, found that 32% of Britain’s local electricity networks would require intervention thanks to dangerously low spare capacity when 40% – 70% of customers have EVs.

Quick fix?

However the My Electric Avenue project has also been trialling a new solution to this problem in the form of a ‘smart’ system that can be incorporated into networks which intelligently manages the power flow into EVs.

For instance, the device, known as Esprit, might stop charging EVs around 5pm, when the UK’s electricity demand is at its peak.

Stewart Reid, head of innovation at Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution, one of the project partners, said: “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.”

Electrical surge

Sales of plug-in cars have increased by 716% over the past two years in the UK. A recent survey also found that more and more households were starting to use EVs as their ‘main’ vehicle thanks to increasing range.

Olivier Paturet, the general manager of the Zero Emission strategy at Nissan Europe, another project partner, said: “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.

“Nissan is already heavily involved in the development of ‘smart grid’ technologies that will allow EV drivers to proactively manage their electricity use at home and we will be making further announcements on this during the coming months.”

Nissan recently upgraded the battery in the LEAF, improving its range by 25% to 155km.

Brad Allen

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