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Report: Large-scale EV Charging Could Damage UK Power Grid Operations

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【Summary】The report cites that a total of six EVs charging together is enough to cause power issues for neighborhoods. As a temporary solution to this issue, the UK government is trialling a protocol called “demand-side response.”

Michael Cheng    Apr 28, 2017 6:05 AM PT
Report: Large-scale EV Charging Could Damage UK Power Grid Operations

Electric vehicles are the solution to decreasing harmful emissions worldwide. But without proper charging infrastructure and adjustments to the grid, the environmentally-friendly cars could also become a major source of problems for cities.

According to a Green Alliance report, too many cars charging simultaneously within close proximity to each other could overload the grid, resulting in disrupted power supplies. The report cites that a total of six EVs charging together is enough to cause power issues for neighborhoods.

"The way the UK energy system is currently governed, this disruption is very likely to lead to future value destruction and grid defection," the report said.

Disrupting Power Allocation 

Charging EVs places a lot of stress on the grid. Replenishing a standard battery pack in one car is equivalent to the power consumption of a residential home – spread out in three days. Green Alliance warns that the problem could get worse over time, as more people switch from fuel-dependent vessels to EVs. If nothing is done to address this issue, a whopping 700,000 people could be affected by electricity failure in the UK by 2025

City officials must act quickly to deploy upgrades to the grid, as sales of EVs have skyrocketed by 56 percent in 2016 (compared to the year before). With battery prices dropping steadily, EV adoption rates are expected to increase at a staggering pace in the next decade. At the moment, there are roughly 100,000 EVs on the road in the UK. By 2025, analysts predict a total of 4.6 million new EV owners will be cruising around the streets of Britain.

Demand-side Response

Currently, there are 11,000 public charging stations in the area. Most drivers charge their vehicle at home and only use the public hubs to make sure they have enough power to get to their final destination. According to The Guardian, people who charge their cars at home do so after work – during peak energy usage.

As a temporary solution to this issue, the UK government is trialling a protocol called "demand-side response." The charging process is designed to stall charging when demand for power around the city is at its highest. When demand decreases, the station will commence charging. 

In some cases, the system may prevent cars from charging for up to three hours. This, of course, is not suitable for EVs that are running very low on power. Just imagine waiting a few hours to refill your empty gas tank – it's simply not acceptable. The UK has reassured locals that this is a very temporary solution and more permanent upgrades will be made to the city's grid to accommodate the influx of EVs on public roads. In order to roll out the critical patches, outdated charging stations must be equipped with smart features.

"Growing use of solar power and electric cars will change the way the energy system is managed, but National Grid has been consistently dealing with evolution in the energy sector for decades, and these latest changes also present great opportunities," said a local spokesman for the National Grid.

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