UK’s EV Fleet Will Reach 36 Million by 2040 and Put Pressure on National Grid

published: 2018-07-19 11:41 | editor: | category: News

A recent webinar held by UK’s National Grid Electricity Transmission PLC forecast that the number of electric vehicles (EVs) on UK’s roads will reach around 11 million in 2030 and 36 million in 2040. The UK is one of the major proponents of EVs in Europe. Apart from banning the sale of traditional fuel vehicles in the domestic market by 2040, the UK government has invested heavily in the country’s EV charging infrastructure.

According to National Grid’s webinar “Future Energy Scenarios (FES) 2018,” the strong growth of the EV market is expected to assist in cutting down the emissions of greenhouse gases from urban centers. However, the webinar also pointed out that the increasing number of EVs on the road will put pressure on UK’s power transmission system. To cope with the rising electricity demand, the domestic power grid has to be upgraded to enhance its power transmission and delivery capability. In sum, grids owned by UK’s utilities need to attain a higher degree of flexibility, or else they may not be able to handle the mass charging of privately owned EVs across the country.

Fintan Slye, director of the UK system operator at National Grid, stated that striking a balance between electricity supply and demand is going to be a complex challenge from the present time to 2050. The fluctuations in demand is expected to become more volatile, thus imposing greater strain on the grid infrastructure.

Next Green Car Ltd., which covers news on the UK’s EV market, reported in June that the number of registered plug-in vehicles in the UK has now reached 160,000. These plug-in vehicles, which include pure battery-powered EVs, plug-in hybrid vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, together constitute an emerging segment in the UK car market. France’s International Energy Agency has also predicted that the number of EVs worldwide will more than triple from 3.7 million in 2017 to around 13 million in 2030. Furthermore, the annual growth of EV sales worldwide during the 2017-2030 period may surge to 24% on average. On the whole, statistical findings from major research organizations have indicated that the increasing adoption of EVs is not just a phenomenon in the UK but a global trend.

National Grid said that it is preparing for four possible scenarios arising out of the widespread use of EVs and advances in the battery powertrain systems. Electricity demand in the UK is forecast to elevate significantly in the future due to deeper EV penetration, with peak demand hitting 3-8 gigawatts in 2030 (reflecting an annual growth of 4-14%) and then going up to 3-13 gigawatts in 2050 (reflecting an annual growth of 6-22%).

The performances of the grid and the EV charging technologies will be among the crucial factors that determine the amount of power used during the peak load period in the future. National Grid’s webinar stated that policies encouraging people to charge EVs during the off-peak periods, along with major progresses made in the development of smart grid solutions, could limit the annual growth rate of peak electricity demand to around 16% on average by 2040. This projection would represent a moderate increase in domestic power consumption.

Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) systems and smart charging systems can assist in reducing the load that EVs put on the grid, and developments in these two technological fields have generated a lot of interests. A V2G system hooks up EVs directly to the grid, so EV owners will not only be able to charge their vehicles but also sell the electricity stored in their vehicles’ batteries back to the grid. Hence, EVs and local grids can mutually benefit from the support and flexibility that V2G systems offer.

The UK government in recent years has been focusing on building the different parts of the EV charging infrastructure and developing V2G technologies. Besides announcing a £30 million investment in V2G solutions this February, the UK government is also proposing regulations that require new residential buildings, off-street parking spots, and even street lights to feature EV charging capability. In addition, numerous programs have been initiated to extend the charging network in the country so that it will be able to meet future demand. The “Workplace Charging Scheme,” for example, subsidize 75% of the cost of installing EV charging equipment at a business venue.

Well-known companies in the energy and automotive sectors are already in a fierce race to bring their EV charging technologies to the market. BP PLC, for instance, plans to launch a 150-kilowatt fast charger that allows an EV to gain 100 miles of driving range with a 10-minute charge. Also, IONITY GmbH, which is a joint venture of the BMW Group, Daimler AG, Ford Motor Co., and the Volkswagen Group, aims to establish 400 charging stations around Europe by 2020. Each of these charging stations will feature “ultra-fast” chargers capable of delivering 350 kilowatts in power output.

The recent rollout of policies to support EVs in the UK shows that governments worldwide have a role in expediting the growth of the EV market. Upgrades to the grid infrastructure are necessary in order to meet the growing electricity demand related to advances in EV technologies. Moreover, policies that generate market opportunities for products such as charging equipment, lithium-ion batteries, and automotive components can direct various industries towards the goal of curbing carbon emissions.

 (The above article is an English translation of a Chinese article written by Daisy Chuang. Photo credit: JiahuiH via Flickr CC BY 2.0.)

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