U.K. power infrastructure has capacity for significant rise in use of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles


Shoreham-by-Sea, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — May 7, 2009 – A substantial medium-term rise in the number of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in the U.K. would have a much lower impact on the national power grid than has previously been estimated, according to the results of new simulation studies by a consortium including engineering solution provider and consultants Ricardo, Jaguar-Land Rover, energy company E.ON and battery technologists Amberjac Projects.

The study, which was carried out by the consortium as part of the Range Extended Hybrid Electric Vehicle (REHEV) project, simulated four vehicle fleet charging scenarios – uncontrolled domestic charging, uncontrolled off-peak domestic charging, “smart” domestic charging, and uncontrolled public charging throughout the day, for example, by commuters who recharge their vehicles while at work. Charging was assumed to be single phase AC as this is the most likely near-term solution, but the study also considered fast charging scenarios as for a large number of vehicles the energy demanded over a time period is likely to be the same and distributed evenly.

Assuming a 10 percent market penetration of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and pure electric vehicles in the U.K. – a proportion representing approximately 3 million passenger and light goods vehicles – the study showed a daily peak increase in electricity demand of less than 2 percent (approximately 1GW) for the “worst case” scenario of uncontrolled domestic charging. Other scenarios were less challenging: off-peak domestic charging, for example, increases electricity consumption throughout the night but has no impact on the peak daily demand.

Since it will be a number of years before a 10 percent level of market penetration is achieved, even with recently announced U.K. government incentive plans, grid capacity at a national scale should be adequate for this significant electrification of the vehicle fleet. While the national impact is shown to be manageable, however, local improvements may be necessary, for example, where local network capacity is marginal or where particularly high concentrations of electric or plug-in vehicles occur.

Further work is ongoing to look at the timeline for reduced power station CO2 emissions which is the key enabler for electric and plug-in hybrids to reach true ultra low carbon status. The project also will look at fast charging infrastructure, which would offer significant consumer benefits in the use of electric and plug-in hybrids.

Commenting on the results, Neville Jackson, Ricardo group technology director and recently appointed chair of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, said: “The increasing electrification of road vehicles is likely to be a key enabler for future significant reductions in transport related CO2 emissions. While the provision of publicly accessible street level infrastructure in the form of recharging points remains a challenge, the research findings show that existing U.K. power grid capacity will be sufficient in the medium term to support a significant expansion of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle use and is therefore not a constraint on implementation.”  

The study marks completion of the first stage of the REHEV project, which is led by Jaguar-Land Rover and part-funded by the Technology Strategy Board.