Autonomous network project to facilitate UK electric vehicle demand

As a survey reveals that almost half of British companies are currently unwilling to invest in electric vehicles (EVs), UK Power Networks has unveiled a new initiative that could save parts of the UK £270m by 2030 by channeling spare capacity towards charging use.

UK Power Networks, which delivers electricity to 18 million people in London, the East and South East, has received approval from Ofgem on its Active Response project to reconfigure electricity networks autonomously, to better manage the predicted rise in EVs.

With almost two million electric vehicles expected to be in operation across the areas managed by UK Power Networks by 2030, the company will trial the project to move spare capacity to support areas that are using more electricity.

The Active Response project will mark the first time an electricity network can provide additional capacity, ahead of time, to areas that have extra demand to charge vehicles. UK Power Networks estimates that this could save £271m that would otherwise be used to build additional capacity, and could reduce national carbon emissions by 448,000 tonnes by 2030.

UK Power Networks’ head of innovation Ian Cameron said: “A low carbon transport revolution is coming, and UK Power Networks want to make sure electric vehicle users can charge when and where they want at the lowest possible cost. Active Response is one of our key projects to enable this, by allowing us to research how we can move any spare capacity around the network to where it is needed.”

The company recently unveiled its intention to become a Distribution System Operator (DSO) as part of its vision to help deliver a smart, flexible energy system. The new project will fit under this scheme by trialing a responsive and automated electricity network that can reconfigure itself to move spare capacity.

UK Power Networks envisions that residential areas will have higher demand to charge EVs on weekends and during the evening, while spare capacity can be sent to city centres during working hours.

Traffic jam

The announcement arrives after a survey of more than 1,000 senior decision makers at British companies found that investment into EVs is being deliberately held back. Research, carried out by YouGov on behalf on npower Buinsess Solutions, found that 45% of respondents are not willing to invest in EV technology and infrastructure before 2025.

Last month, Chancellor Philip Hammond pledged £400m towards charging infrastructure, with a further £100m set to be added to the plug-in car grant, as part of the Autumn Budget. Hammond also explained that those who charge EVs at work would benefit from tax breaks.

However, it appears these announcements have done little to ignite business action. Respondents cited a lack of charging points (32%), poor battery life (30%) and high installation costs (29%) as the main barriers to investment.

More than half of the senior decision makers felt that they were uninformed about the opportunities that EVs would provide their business, although 38% agreed that having charging facilities at business sites would make investments more attractive and obtainable.

npower’s director of vehicle charging solutions Jason Scagell said: “With business investment in EVs stuck in the slow lane, the measures announced in the Budget have come at the perfect time. We hope that this commitment will help ensure the UK has the necessary infrastructure in place to support a strategic move to EVs by enterprises. But more needs to be done by all stakeholders – government, business and the EV industry – to showcase the full value of an EV strategy.”

Ecotricity tariff

Elsewhere, Ecotricity has partnered with charge point manufacturer Rolec EV to offer new charging tariffs. The Fully Charged Bundle offers a new green electricity and EV tariff that enables EV users to save around £120 annually compared to a Big Six standard tariff.

An additional offer from the partnership also means that a £3 connection fee for people to charge their vehicles across service stations on the road will be removed. Customers will pay 15p per unit, saving around £50 annually.

Ecotricity’s founder Dale Vince said: “We’ve been driving Britain’s electric vehicle revolution for almost two decades, and are delighted to be teaming up with Rolec – they bring an important element to this new comprehensive EV driver package – a home charging solution.

“Our ambition in doing this is clear – to make electric vehicle charging at home and on the road more simple, joined up and cost effective for existing and new EV drivers, and in this way we hope to encourage more people to go electric.”

Matt Mace

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