Electricars: Did nobody think to ask the power stations?

  • Significant data about faster move to battery cars
  • UK power networks can ‘cope’ – for now
  • Smart ‘managed’ charging will be required
GOING FOR AN ELECTRIC NATION: Plug-in home-charging might have some unexpected consequences for SA's power grid. Image: Electric Nation / Newspress
GOING FOR AN ELECTRIC NATION: Plug-in home-charging might have some unexpected consequences for SA’s power grid. Image: Electric Nation / Newspress

LONDON, England – There was an explosion of news items in early July 2017 which raised what seem to have been previously unconsidered problems about the rising number of electric vehicles.

France, for instance, says it will ban fossil-fuel cars by 2040; Volvo will retail only battery and plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2019; Tesla has said its Model 3 mass-market battery car is rolling off production lines.

There have been many other media items in the UK about the ability of the UK’s power grid to cope with the sudden rash of electricars so Electric Nation, a Western Power Distribution and network innovation allowance-funded project, is testing a smart-charging solution.

MARK DALE: A surge in purchases of battery and hybrid cars in the UK has set alarm bells ringing among the power companies.  Image: Electric Nation / Newspress

It’s intended to service the challenge of clusters of electricars charging at peak times on local electricity networks.


WPD’s partners are EA Technology, DriveElectric, Lucy Electric GridKey and TRL.  Mark Dale, an innovation and low-carbon networks engineer with WPD), assured Carman’s Corner in a media release:

“The UK electricity grid has plenty of capacity to deliver energy to electricars now and for the foreseeable future.

“Smart charging can play an important role in ensuring electricity network upgrades are kept to a minimum as the number of electricars being charged at home increases. With the correct management of charging the network has the capacity to integrate the predicted uptake of EVs.

“Smart charging can help to manage demand on the grid and so avoid or defer infrastructure upgrades.”

Dale was a speaker at a July 2017 ‘Powering the Electric and Low-emission Vehicle Future’ forum event along with others from similar organisations.


Dave Roberts, smart interventions director with EA Technology, for instance, told The Corner: “We are at a transition to electric vehicles tipping point – great news for vehicle owners and the environment.

“EV’s play are vital to improve air quality. Smart charging will allow more on the roads and save money – for the industry and for customers – on reinforcing local electricity networks.”

The UK government has ambitious targets for the uptake of electricars; indeed, sales are growing rapidly. An electric vehicle can more than double a home’s electricity demand if a car is charged during peak times – such as breakfast or supper times.


If many homes are doing the same – eventually likely in middle-class areas – there will be a significant impact on the power networks and they will have to be strengthened but the installation of cables, overhead lines and possibly even sub-station equipment.

The cost of that (are you reading this, Eskom?) has been estimated at as much as the equivalent of R38-billion (in the UK) by 2050 without smart chargers.

Electric Nation project is now recruiting as many as 700 new electricar owners to provide each with a subsidised smart charger to study real data.

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