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The rise in electric vehicles – how will the grid cope?

The adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) is gradually on the increase but questions remain over the impact that the rise of EVs on our roads will have on utilities’ grid operations. 

Engineering Manager for World Kinect Energy Services, Adam Pigott, who helps deliver measured energy reductions to our UK customers, explains how new, more efficient technologies have generated spare capacity over the years that could potentially ease the strain as EVs become more mainstream. 

Currently, whilst EV adoption rates are increasing, they remain low in the grand scheme of overall vehicle numbers. 

Consequently, the additional load being placed on the electricity system at this time by EVs is negligible in overall terms.  

Whilst it is planning for much greater EV adoption rates, the simple truth is that at present, its networks haven’t been stressed in any great way yet by the change that is coming. 

It is accepted that the wholesale move to EVs will no doubt require additional generation, but that this is arguably easier to add to the system, than it is to massively upgrade the transmission and distribution network to handle extra power. 

Much of the planning being undertaken by the grid and local distribution companies is more about when power is used than how much can be pushed through the cables – so arguably it is more an issue of technology than the physical network.

 

 

family spending time at home

UK electricity consumption at a historical low

Increasing vehicle electrification will increase the loads placed on local distribution and national transmission. However, much of the UK infrastructure, certainly locally, was designed at a time when homes consumed more power than they do today. 

LED lighting, flat screen TVs, more efficient appliances, less use of electricity for space and hot water heating have all reduced the electricity demand of homes substantially in the last 10 to 20 years. As such, there is some spare capacity, that wouldn’t have been anticipated 10 or 20 years ago.

Similar trends have been seen in the commercial and industrial space, with electricity demands reducing year on year both as a result of improving efficiency and the loss of heavy industry as it has relocated to lower cost economies. 

This said, as EV numbers increase, the trend of reducing electricity consumption and demand will reverse, in time. 

 

 

How will increased EV charging impact on utilities’ grid operations?

Whilst there may need to be some upgrade work carried out in more densely populated areas, and inevitably more generation will need to be added to the system (which will have to be renewable), the issue of ‘energy’ can be handled more easily than the issue of ‘power’. 

Essentially, in an EV-dominated world, where everyone comes home in the evening around 6pm and plugs their car in to start charging immediately, this presents far more of a challenge to the electricity industry, than the charging of all those vehicles taking place at a slightly different or staggered times.

For the network to cope, EV charging will need to be smoothed out over time. Some of this will happen naturally – some may charge at work during the day, some at home in the evening. 

An EV will not necessarily need to be charged every day and some, even when plugged in, will have full batteries and will not be drawing power. 

However, owing to human nature and habit – plugging an EV in when arriving home (much as you would a mobile phone), will have to be managed through the use of technology, such as smart charging, to avoid stressing the system at peak times.
 

 

4k aerial view of driverless or autonomous car. Traffic passing by a highway.

Gearing up your business for the onset of electric vehicles

If you are considering installing charging points on site or seeking to electrifying company fleets, we can help. At World Kinect Energy Services, we work with our clients to understand their EV ambitions, whether it’s creating revenue via vehicle charging, increasing footfall to a location or providing on-site charging to staff or fleets in order to reduce carbon emissions, we can develop an appropriate solution. 

Once a bespoke strategy has been defined, we can advise on payment platforms, the most appropriate ways the chargers would be activated by users, recommend the most appropriate hardware for any given application, before competitively tendering to a range of leading equipment manufacturers. Our team will then project manage the complete installation process through to final commissioning. 

 

 

How can World Kinect Energy Services help?

At World Kinect Energy Services, we empower businesses to make the right energy decisions for their operation, making sure they fully understand the costs and benefits of transitioning to electric transportation.