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Finding smart ways to prepare the electricity network for electric vehicle charging

A smart new system for charging electric vehicles is being tested in London to help get the electricity network ready for widespread use of electric vehicles.

From Press releases - 25 February 2014 12:00 AM

A smart new system for charging electric vehicles is being tested in London to help get the electricity network ready for widespread use of electric vehicles.

If and when electricity starts replacing petrol and diesel as a main fuel source for transport, smart systems will be needed to prevent the electricity system being overloaded by colossal extra demand, or having to re-equip substations and dig up busy roads to lay new cables.

London’s electricity distributor UK Power Networks is working on the Low Carbon London trial with POD Point, Smarter Grid Solutions and Imperial College London.

Between December and April, the companies are testing POD Point’s new Carbon Sync software and Smarter Grid Solutions’ ‘active network management’ system to briefly suspend the flow of electricity to selected public EV charge points at peak times on the network, while still ensuring drivers receive a sufficient level of charge.

Three sites have been selected for the trial, including five public charge points in the City, ten in Beckton and 50 of the most popular points in London. The smart control system is designed to have no noticeable impact on those using the charge points. 

Michael Clark, Low Carbon London programme director, said: “Success in these trials could reduce the cost and disruption associated with building new power infrastructure to support the expansion of EV charging systems, benefiting consumers across the country. We believe this is the first trial of ‘active network management’ involving electric vehicles in Britain.”

Alan Gooding, Commercial Director and Co-Founder, Smarter Grid Solutions, said: “Active Network Management is already proven as a highly effective way of connecting larger volumes of distributed energy, such as solar, wind and CHP, to congested electricity networks. This new trial is a great opportunity to demonstrate that the technique can also help electricity network operators to accommodate other features of a low carbon economy, such as electric vehicle use.”

Erik Fairbairn, CEO of POD Point, said: “Adding electric car charging facilities will require close monitoring to ensure that drivers are supplied with the electricity they need without potentially overloading the electricity network. The software used in this trial monitors in real time the demand, the status of all charge points in the network, and the level of charge required by each car in real time. This information is fed into a control algorithm which carefully manages the charge point to ensure the driver gets a full charge without exceeding local capacity.”

The Government’s Carbon Plan pledges to source ten per cent of UK transport energy from renewable sources by 2020. Without smart controls on the electricity network, estimates suggest a 25 per cent uptake of EVs by 2030 could lead to half the transformers closest to homes or businesses needing an upgrade, potentially increasing the cost of new EV infrastructure.

This is the challenge the new trial is aiming to address. The new software will provide live data showing electricity demand from a cluster of charge points and how much demand could be reduced, if curtailed. Interruptions to the EV charging are designed to have no noticeable effect on those using the charge points. In addition, by monitoring the state and rate of charge, the system will not interrupt charging to cars that need it most. Data collected during the trials will be extrapolated by Imperial College London to model the impact on London’s electricity cables and substations in various scenarios.