Can smart charging technology help reduce EV grid demand?

The main concern of experts when introducing electric vehicles is not the available charging capacity, but the avoidance of uncontrollable grid fluctuations. Chris Horne explored

The UK’s transition to electrification is accelerating at breakneck speed. In fact, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), more than 38,000 battery electric vehicles (BEVs) were registered nationwide in September, alongside 12,281 plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). To date, nearly 250,000 UK drivers have opted for electrification this year – a 17.6% increase compared to the same period in 2021.

Every fifth new car now has an electric drive, while the decline of the internal combustion engine continues. With the imminent ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2030, vehicle manufacturers are rapidly changing their production models. At the end of 2021, there were 50 BEV models for sale in the UK. By the end of 2022 there should be over 200.

The situation is similar in other key markets around the world, but the UK offers an interesting case study. Positive news for regional electrification targets, what does this mean for the National Grid? With electric vehicle sales poised to exceed seven million by 2030 in the UK alone, and with the expected increase in demand for electricity, could we eventually find ourselves in a situation where demand could outstrip supply?

Negative pressure

First, let’s dispel an important myth: “Is there enough grid capacity to charge electric vehicles?” Well, according to findings from National Grid, which manages the electricity transmission grid and part of the distribution grid in the UK, motorists really shouldn’t panic. There is more than enough generation and transmission capacity to handle the transition to electrification, even if we all switched tomorrow morning.

After all, the UK’s largest electricity demand was reported in 2002 (62 GW); Since then, our national peak has fallen by almost 16% thanks to widespread improvements in energy efficiency. By the time every car on the road is electrified, National Grid projects that demand will only increase by an estimated 10%.

Charging electric vehicles
National Grid estimates that by the time every car on the road is electric, demand will increase by only an estimated 10%

That’s not to say, however, that the transition to electrification won’t come without its own set of complex challenges. In fact, the main concern of experts when introducing electric vehicles is not the available charging capacity, but avoiding uncontrollable grid fluctuations. This means that if everyone decided to charge their EVs at the same time, the increase in demand could be too rapid for the grid to respond. This is particularly important as the grid continues to be decarbonized by renewable energy (e.g. large solar and wind projects). Indeed, renewable energy is notorious for being “lumpy” or in other words somewhat unpredictable due to uncontrollable conditions like the weather.

So, in the event that we see increased grid demand—most likely when the majority of commuters are coming home from work and everyone is plugging in their EVs at the same time—the ability to immediately ramp up utility may become more difficult.

But there is no need to panic. Luckily, the transition to electrification didn’t come out of the blue, and as such, work has been going on behind the scenes for a number of years to prepare for just that scenario. A significant step forward announced in 2021 was the unveiling of the government’s electric vehicle Smart Charge Point Regulations (EVSCRPs). Additionally, it is important to note that EVs are not typically charged every day, but rather once or twice a week on average, which correlates with the average range of today’s EVs and average weekly mileage in the UK.

Support the network, control the demand

In addition to some cybersecurity and customer data protection provisions, the EVSCPRs introduce three new key requirements for charging station manufacturers and consumers: standard off-peak charging; a random delay in the start of loading; Steps to get customers to sign up for Demand Side Response (DSR) services. With off-peak charging, all smart points must now be set up so that an electric vehicle charges at the best time for the grid. The peak load or rush hour in the grid occurs in the morning and late afternoon, so EVs are only charged overnight or in the middle of the day by default.

If someone is used to charging their EV as soon as it is plugged in, or is desperate for a charge, they can override these settings, but the intent is to encourage more off-peak EV charging.

Regarding the “random delay”, every new charger now includes an automatic pause of up to ten minutes when the electric vehicle starts charging. On the whole, this might seem minor, but even a tiny, random adjustment will help ease the pressure during periods of high demand. This is seen as particularly important following a local power outage to stagger connected demand when power is restored.

While the requirement to sign up for DSR services is simply encouraged by the regulations, the opportunity is important. Through DSR, power flowing through low-carbon technologies (such as electric vehicle chargers and heat pumps) can be increased, decreased or time-shifted to make demand more flexible.

By operating a micro-power system effectively, it is possible not only to reduce the pressure on the grid, but to eliminate it for significant periods of time

Myenergi is currently conducting a Flexibility Beta DSR test with customers who have opted in to better understand its potential in grid balancing. As part of the trial, it makes small adjustments to how and when customers charge to reduce the strain on the grid. The aim is to further develop the knowledge gained from this program into a full service.

Overall, the requirements outlined in the EVSCPRs aim to address uncontrollable grid fluctuations head-on. This allows times of high demand to be collectively minimized and the grid to be more effectively balanced.

From smart to eco-smart

While the transition to electrification can bring its own challenges through investment, planning and legislation, the UK has already put in place numerous initiatives to minimize the impact on the electricity grid. The national infrastructure is thus well prepared for the electric car park of tomorrow.

However, there is one last way consumers can take matters into their own hands and further ease the pressure on the web. Myenergi has developed the first eco-smart EV charger on the market – zappi – a future-proof solution that, in addition to operating as a grid-tied charger, automatically optimizes its own energy tariff to allow charging from the grid at both cheaper and greener times enable. can be seamlessly integrated with renewable energy technologies to take advantage of self-generated power supply.

Households with already installed solar panels or a home wind turbine can use zappi to charge their electric vehicle free of charge. While charging from the grid is still far cheaper and greener than running a petrol or diesel car, renewable energy charging can take EV charging off the grid entirely.

By operating a micro-power system effectively, it is possible not only to reduce the pressure on the grid, but to eliminate it for significant periods of time. So while the national transition to electrification presents hurdles, smart charging technology is helping to solve them. Taking it a step further, eco-smart charging has the potential to completely remove much of this pressure.


About the author: Chris Horne is myenergi’s Chief Technology Officer

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