National Grid: Charging providers must fine-tune efforts to meet EV demand

EXCLUSIVE: National Grid has called on businesses looking to provide charging infrastructure for the electric vehicle (EV) agenda to consider sizing and location in order to best capture their audience.

The EV transition provides significant opportunities for supermarkets, shopping centres and other local businesses to become involved in the EV transition by providing charging hubs of their own. The world’s biggest furniture retailer Ikea was among an initial wave of firms that have recognised that providing EV chargers could help to attract customers and boost its sustainability credentials.

Speaking exclusively to edie, National Grid’s EV director Graeme Cooper welcomed these developments, but stressed that the right considerations would need to be taken by interested parties around the sizing and location of EV infrastructure.

“It needs to be right sized to make that work,” said Cooper, who is speaking at edie Live next month. “There’s no point having an ultra-rapid charger at a hotel, because people are going to be there for longer. However, if you are travelling a greater distance, you don’t want to be stuck at a motorway service for hours while your car chargers.

“I think there’s going to be a fine-art about choosing the rate of chargers to best capture your audience. Within a supermarket, you’ve got a range of breads – this could map across to charging infrastructure, where you have the free-to-use slower chargers, slightly faster charges where there is a trade-off on cost, and the premium paid for rapid chargers. The numbers of each charger will be a fine-art and it is an emerging opportunity.”

Superfast network

The utility is currently exploring the possibility of rolling out a superfast charging network across the UK’s major motorways that is directly connected to the transmission system.

50 strategic sites have been identified by National Grid, in a move that would see chargers deliver up to 350kW of electricity and reduce charging times to between 5-12 minutes. Cooper said that, by ensuring that more than 90% of drivers are within 50 miles of an ultra-rapid charger at any given time, the project would go some way to solving the range anxiety issue for EVs.

He said: “Where we are at is trying to answer the question – how do you fix range anxiety? The reasons are the upfront costs, and we can’t help with that. However, we can help with location and appropriateness. We’re the enabler to these markets.”

Flexibility services

Concerns exist around the potential extra demand of EVs on the grid. Research by the National Grid has shown that the growth of EVs could add up 30% – to peak power demand by 2050. Without smart charging, National Grid says peak demand could grow by as much as 8GW by the end of the next decade due to a “dramatic rise” in sales.

Smart-charging can be used to ensure EVs are charged with the lowest cost energy, with more advanced control able to provide the flexibility services essential for keeping our electricity grid functioning, earning additional revenue.

Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology goes a step further, enabling energy to flow to and from an EV. Whilst the technology is currently expensive and relatively untested, considering that the average car is driven for less than 30 miles a day, and is stationary for the vast majority of their lifetime, V2G technology could turn a parked car into an energy asset.

National Grid is already working alongside Japanese car giant Nissan on a vehicle-to-grid (V2G) pilot project which is aiming for 1000 installations over the next three years. The scheme was awarded £9.8m as part of the Government’s programme to develop the business proposition and core technology around V2G.

Cooper admitted that the V2G technology is still an emerging area, but said there is “plenty of opportunity” in this space.

He said: “It is a little early to be talking about the commercial benefits, there’s too much interconnection on who owns and controls what. There must be something in V2G because a lot of work is going into it. How that benefit appears is the reason why the innovation project is important.

“We’re exploring what can be done. There’s enough momentum, but working out the value is still open to debate.”

Graeme Cooper is speaking at edie Live 2018

National Grid’s Graeme Cooper will be speaking on the Energy Innovation theatre at edie Live. The session will see industry experts discuss everything you need to know when it comes to greening your fleet. 

Running between 22–23 May 2018, edie Live plans to show delegates how they can achieve their Mission Possible. Through the lens of energy, resources, the built environment, mobility and business leadership an array of expert speakers will be on hand to inspire delegates to achieve a sustainable future.

For more information and to register for edie Live 2018, click here.

George Ogleby

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