Electric Vehicles: an under-utilised asset that will save the grid

8th November 2017 | Commercial Energy

Electric Vehicles (EV) will be a blessing, not a curse to the UK’s electricity grid – as long as government handles the rollout right, argues Ovo Energy’s Tom Pakenham.

We are on the verge of an electric vehicle revolution. That’s been the common refrain in recent months in the media. If many predictions prove correct, there could be one million electric vehicles on UK roads in the next five years. If every one of those cars were plugged into and drawing power from a charging point simultaneously, we could see 7GW of extra demand, the equivalent of ten power stations.

Cue scaremongers forecasting that by 2025, up to 700,000 electricity users could be the victims of blackouts without proper regulation of charging.

To date, what’s been missing from the debate surrounding electric vehicles is how they can be utilised as an asset: to the benefit of societies and of the owner’s wallets. Electric vehicles represent a tremendous opportunity for the UK to evolve its energy systems in ways unthought of just a few years ago. They are in effect, a huge battery.

Contrary to some interpretations of National Grid’s forecasts that electric vehicles will put a catastrophic strain on UK grid, electric vehicles and battery power in general can save our increasingly antiquated power infrastructure.

We have an exciting vision for the future of electric vehicles, that aligns with the government’s recent announcements. These included:

  • Developing one of the best electric vehicle charging networks in the world – by investing an additional £80m, alongside £15m from Highways England, to support charging infrastructure deployment
  • Investing £841m of public funds in innovation for low carbon transport technology and fuels – including development and manufacture of electric batteries through investment of up to £246m in the Faraday Challenge
  • Committing to ensuring all new cars are non-fossil fuel by 2040.

These announcements, albeit welcome, are just the start of a bigger conversation. The government must continue to allow the industry to take the lead and innovate. This way, we can find new ways to store and deliver energy in a decentralised manner – the first step toward a future of democratised energy. With increasing electric vehicle sales, we have the ability to bring that technology into people’s homes at a rapid rate and help to reduce carbon emissions in the process.

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