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EVs are becoming increasingly common on the roads of the UK. Public charging points are becoming more widely available, new models of vehicles are being introduced with larger batteries and home EV charging stations are being released which charge vehicles faster. This is reducing many of the barriers that have prevented wider EV ownership, making them a mainstream choice.
While the UK electricity system has plenty of capacity to deliver energy to EVs, if lots of people in one area have electric vehicles and clusters of cars develop, more EVs would have a greater impact on local electricity networks. Charging vehicles with larger batteries, at faster rates, and over longer periods could exacerbate this pressure.
The Electric Nation project is being hosted by Western Power Distribution. It is being delivered by a partnership of EA Technology, DriveElectric and Lucy Electric Gridkey. The project is funded via Ofgem through its Network Innovation Allowance scheme. The project aims to provide local electricity network operators with the tools to be able to ensure that their networks can cope with this massive new challenge, whilst avoiding replacing cables and substations.
The growth of EVs
At the end of 2015 there were about 50,000 EVs on the roads in the UK. This included battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Forecasts suggest that by 2020 there will be over 1 million EVs. Between October 2013 and October 2015 registrations of EVs increased by 716%. In 2015 there were 32 types of EVs available to lease or purchase in the UK, this is set to increase to over 40 by 2017. EV charge rates and battery capacities are steadily increasing. This allows vehicles to achieve longer ranges and the customer base to increase.
Cumulative Plug-In Car Grant Registrations (UK) 2012-2016
Figure 1: Graph showing the cumulative numbers of cars registered for the Plug-In Car Grant (UK) 2012 – 2016
The need for the project
This growth of EVs presents a new challenge for the UK’s electricity transmission and distribution network operators. As groups of neighbours acquire EVs, localised clustering is likely to have an impact on electricity networks. It has been proven by the My Electric Avenue project that at least 30% of GB low voltage networks (the cables and substations nearest to homes and businesses) will require investment by 2050 if adoption of electrified transport is widespread. This would represent a present day cost of £2.2bn. Disruption to customers in terms of roads being dug up and associated inconvenience would be huge. Battery sizes and charging rates have increased since the My Electric Avenue project so the impact on the electricity network will be greater.
The local electricity network
The Electric Nation project is focusing on the local electricity networks that supply homes and small businesses – the low voltage (LV) network. Electricity networks are run in a safe, secure, reliable and sustainable way to provide energy to local communities. This trial will help the Distribution Network Operators, who manage these networks, increase their understanding of the impact of EVs on their networks and how this impact could be reduced using smart chargers.
Objectives of the project
The Electric Nation trial aims to:
- Expand current understanding of the impact on electricity distribution networks of charging a diverse range of electric vehicles at home. The My Electric Avenue project was able to build up a bank of knowledge, however this trial was confined to one type of EV with the same battery size and charging rate. This project is seeking to discover how the impact will be altered by different types of vehicles with different sizes of battery that charge at different rates.
- Build a better understanding of how vehicle usage affects charging behaviour given diversity of charging rate and battery size.
- Evaluate the reliability and acceptability to owners of EVs of smart charging systems and the influence these have on charging behaviour. This will help to answer such questions as:
- Would charging restrictions be acceptable to customers?
- Can customer preference be incorporated into the system?
- Is some form of incentive required?
- Is such a system ‘fair’?
- Can such a system work?
What will be learnt?
The project will show how effective demand management using smart chargers is an alternative to costly network reinforcement. It will provide network operators with the information required to obtain a demand control service in the future. The project will also develop a tool that will allow local network operators to identify which parts of their network are likely to be affected by the future adoption of EVs and recommend the most economical solution to solve any issues this could cause.
What will you, as a trial participant, be required to do?
Before the smart charger installation:
- We may need to survey your property to evaluate the cost of the smart charger installation. We will arrange this at your convenience and may require the following:
- Access to property fuse box
- Access for inspection of broadband router
- Understand how the properties earth wiring is configured
- Access for inspection of proposed smart charger location
- The project has a limited budget for each individual installation, therefore upon survey completion, if it is deemed that a smart charger installation is over this allocated budget, you will be informed of the cost of the additional work. You can then either:
- Not proceed
- Agree to fund the additional work and proceed
When the charger is installed:
- You will need to be at home on the arranged date the smart charge point is to be installed.
- We’ll install a wall-mounted EV smart charger ready for you to charge your electric vehicle.
- All installations will be carried out by an approved, certified installer. They will complete all the necessary paperwork to obtain the OLEV home charge scheme charger grant (where applicable), notify the network operator of the installation and get the charge point set up for the trial.
- The installer will require access to the property distribution (fuse) board and may have to install an additional small distribution switch box.
- In addition to the installation of the smart charger, a power cable will be required to run from the distribution board to the smart charger.
- We’ll also install some communications equipment which will consist of a small box the size of a broadband router that will be installed near your distribution box, an ethernet cable from the charger to the small box, and a unit which plugs into the back of the broadband router. The communications equipment means we’re able to securely and reliably exchange information with the smart charger over the internet. In some circumstances this will require an additional cable to the router, however for the majority of customers this will not be required and communication will be wireless.
- After the installation, you will be asked to complete two online surveys a few weeks apart, providing information about yourself, your household, your EV and how you charge it. Any information provided through surveys will only be used for research purposes and will be kept confidential.
During the trial:
- You will be able to charge your vehicles at home using the smart charger provided.
- Some trial participants will have access to a mobile device app which allows them to enter information about their journey preferences and receive information about when they’ve charged their car and any demand management events they’ve been part of.
- You will also be required to take part in customer research designed to investigate your experience of owning an EV and of charging it, including the acceptability of the demand management solution. This will take the form of a number of online surveys. You will receive shopping vouchers, such as from Amazon, for completing these surveys. There will be one final survey at the end of the trial to provide feedback on the trial experience and EV ownership .
Electric Nation has been a tremendous success with more than 2,500 enquiries received from people looking to take part. As there are only 700 spaces available on the project, we are reaching capacity and from now on all applications received will be placed on a reserve list. Those on the reserve list will be notified by December 2017 if a space has become available for them.
Which vehicles are eligible to take part?
ALL ELECTRIC VEHICLES – PURE EVS, PLUG-IN HYBRIDS AND RANGE-EXTENDED EVS – ARE ELIGIBLE TO TAKE PART IN ELECTRIC NATION IF THEY ARE ELIGIBLE FOR THE OLEV ELECTRIC VEHICLE HOMECHARGE SCHEME GRANT. A SELECTION OF VEHICLES CURRENTLY ON SALE ARE SHOWN BELOW. OLDER VEHICLES THAT MAY NO LONGER BE ON SALE MAY QUALIFY IF AN OLEV ELECTRIC VEHICLE HOMECHARGE SCHEME GRANT HAS NOT BEEN USED.
Battery size up to 20kWh | Charge level 3kW
Audi A3 e-tron
Audi Q7 e-tron
Hyundai IONIQ PHEV
Kia Niro PHEV
Kia Optima PHEV
Kia Optima Sportswagon PHEV
Mercedes-Benz C 350e
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid
Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid
Toyota Prius Plug-in
Volkswagen Golf GTE
Volkswagen Passat GTE
Volvo V60 D5 Twin Engine
Volvo XC60 T8 Twin Engine
Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine
Battery size up to 20-30kWh | Charge level 3kW
Renault Kangoo Van
Battery size up to 20-30kWh | Charge level 7kW
Kia Soul EV
Battery size 30kWh+ | Charge level 7kW
Tesla Model S
Tesla Model X
To find out more about leasing an electric vehicle visit DriveElectric
Find out more about the Electric Nation Project Partners