Electric Vehicles are vital, but what about the infrastructure?

Simon Buckley, KTN’s Knowledge Transfer Manager for Low Emission Vehicles, considers the impact of more of us switching to Electric Vehicles (EVs).

Posted on: 17/09/2020

Simon Buckley, KTN’s Knowledge Transfer Manager for Low Emission Vehicles, considers the impact of more of us switching to Electric Vehicles (EVs).

The government has introduced some ambitious decarbonisation targets and to reach them, the rapid transition from fossil fuel-powered vehicles to EVs will be a fundamental shift that many more of us will need to adapt to.

If more EVs are in use, more charge points will be needed at homes, workplaces and in public places. As of April 2020, there were over 18,000 publicly available charging devices including over 3,200 rapid devices. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) 1.7m public charge points could be needed by 2030. In this blog, I am going to concentrate on innovations that may help decrease the reliance on public charge points.

How quickly you can charge your EV is crucially important to understand as there are a variety of options, including 3 to 7 kW home systems and 22 to 150 kW public charge points.

If you have a 40 kWh Nissan Leaf and a 7 kW charger you will need approximately 6 hours to fully charge; with a 50 kW charger, this time comes down to 45 minutes. For most people, an overnight charge of 6-8 hours is perfectly adequate. This means if you have a 40 kWh battery than you only need access to faster chargers if you are doing a longer trip. Unless you are doing more than 150 miles a day you probably can do most of your charging at home.

Approximately 30-40% of homes in the UK may not have access to off-street parking and this is seen as a big issue for potential EV owners. The good news is that there are a number of British companies who are working on innovative solutions to help with this issue.

Projects in progress and funded by OLEV include a solution to convert local car parks to EV charging pods at night which could help people with no on-road space next to their home; wireless technology that sits under the road to allow seamless charging; subsurface charging points that reduce clutter by only being raised when charging; and smart apps to ensure you are never more than five minutes’ walk from a charging point.

Innovation is key to how our energy grid works. The current usage pattern creates peaks of electricity use in the morning and in the evening, but overnight there is less demand. Innovate UK (funded by OLEV/BEIS) has a cohort of projects trialling vehicle to grid solutions which can help flatten this curve and allow us to use energy more efficiently. In the end, this will increase the security of our network and could decrease the operation cost of EV cars even further. Visit www.v2g-hub.com for more information.

Finally, standardisation is super-critical either in terms of the physical charge point connector or business models to allow people to use any charge point. An analogy is VHS vs Betamax. A customer needs to be able to drive to a charger and plugin without worrying whether the charger is compatible or if the driver has an online service subscription with that company.

Getting more EVs and charging points on the road is only part of the solution, we all have a responsibility to help reach the net-zero goal. If you have fewer vehicles on the road then you have fewer charge points to install and less energy to supply.

So, I will leave you with this. Do you really need a second car? Could you participate in active travel or use more public transport? What would enable you to live with just one car? Innovative new technology? Progress or changes in certain areas? Two things are for sure: EVs are key to helping us meet net-zero targets; and on a crowded street, having one car instead of two can make charging an EV much easier for everyone.

If you would like to find out more about KTN’s work in this sector, click here.


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