electric vehicle charging

Rising number of EVs risks causing blackouts on UK electricity grid, MPs warn

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The charging requirements from millions of new electric vehicles expected to enter British roads in the near future risk causing blackouts to parts of the country as the electricity grid strains under the demand, a report by the Commons Transport Select Committee has found.

The Committee, which is made up of MPs, has urged the government to provide a clear policy framework to ensure that the charging infrastructure required is delivered in line with net-zero ambitions to phase out ICE vehicles from 2030.

It also expressed concerns that accessible charging infrastructure is currently lacking for drivers who live in rural or remote areas or who don’t have off-street parking.

Charging habits may need to change alongside a strengthening of the National Grid to meet the demand from new electric vehicles, the Committee said.

It wants the government to encourage drivers to top up batteries frequently rather than recharging from empty to full in one go, which puts more strain on the electrical grid.

During its inquiry, the Committee heard evidence from energy industry representatives that smart chargers – which alter the amount of electricity sent to a car depending on overall demand – will play a crucial role.

Public charging provisions should also become a requirement for local development, with funding made available for local planning and transport bodies to hire staff with a mandate to deliver charging infrastructure, the report said.

With charging at home substantially cheaper than on-street charging, the government was urged to keep pricing fair for people who charge their electric vehicles in public spaces.

Chair of the Committee, Huw Merriman MP said: “As car usage returns to pre-pandemic levels, we must keep our sights locked on the target: all new cars and vans should be electric by 2035 at the latest.

“Putting guarantees in place on infrastructure is crucial but one report after another flags concerns to government about the provision of electric-car charging infrastructure. Let ours be the last: it’s time that ministers set out the route map to delivering a network of services for everyone across the UK.

“Charging electric vehicles should be convenient, straightforward and inexpensive and drivers must not be disadvantaged by where they live or how they charge their vehicles. Shifting the subsidy from the taxpayer to the manufacturer will incentivise those who deliver the fewest electric vehicles in our showrooms to up their game.”

Graeme Cooper, head of future markets at National Grid, said: “We’ll be working with government to map out where critical grid capacity is needed to enable the faster rollout of charging points.

“But also looking a step ahead to the needs of electric or hydrogen trucks and other forms of transport.

“There will be an uptick in demand for energy so we need to ensure that we are future proofing, putting the right wires in the right place for future demand.”

Rachel Eyres, of engineering consulters Expleo UK, said: “If we want to make EVs a viable and affordable option for Britons, we need to create a charging system that integrates with the power system to make smart charging compatible with our existing power networks.

“This will smooth out the demand and reduce the government’s need to create additional power generation to service peak charging times, while reducing the need for network providers to upgrade their networks.

“As the system involves vehicles, people and a power system, it will be very complex to implement. It will mean coming up with new tariffs and commercial incentives for consumers and commercial drivers, as well as exploring other technologies that can respond to the need for more energy without increasing the UK’s carbon emissions.

“This rethink of the power supply for charging stations needs to go hand in hand with large scale infrastructure projects to ensure that EVs are not only available but also affordable to all and compatible with our current way of life.”

Earlier this week, the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee urged the government to do more to bolster the development of new battery technologies as a cornerstone to its net-zero carbon emissions strategy.

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