Powersystems review on the environment, transportation and the electric vehicle revolution looked to understand the electric vehicle revolution, and key elements driving it.
Consumer tastes and preferences are changing. The driver to these behavioural changes can almost be linked to technological innovation. Technology is one part of a three-pronged phenomenon that’s behind the electric vehicle revolution. The other two key drivers are environmental awareness and political policy changes.
Is the UK geared up for the rise in electric vehicles?
Most recently, point 4 of Boris Johnson’s Ten Point Plan announced in November 2020 stated, ‘We’ll invest more than £2.8bn in electric vehicles, lacing the land with charging points and creating long-lasting batteries in UK gigafactories. This will allow us to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans in 2030. However, we will allow the sale of hybrid cars and vans that can drive a significant distance with no carbon coming out of the tailpipe until 2035.’
The UK has committed to Net-Zero carbon emissions by 2050. Transport is currently the largest emitting sector of the UK economy, responsible for 27% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions; within this, cars are responsible for 55% of transport emissions. Electric vehicles (EVs, or sometimes known as Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVS)) offer one method of reducing emissions, with the Committee for Climate Change (CCC) suggesting that all new vehicles should be electrically propelled by 2035, if not sooner, to achieve the Net Zero target.
Simply, the nation will only be in a position to ban new petrol cars by 2035 if the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles is fit for purpose….
What are Electric Vehicles (EVs)
EVs run, either partially or wholly, on electricity, stored on board the vehicle in batteries or produced from hydrogen. Whilst cars represent 92% of the 432,000 ULEVS licensed (1.1% of all licensed vehicles) at the end of 2020, there are also electric motorcycles, taxis, buses, vans and heavy goods vehicles. The market for EVs is immature, yet growing, with 8.5% of registered vehicles ULEVs in 2020. Meanwhile, only 1.8% of used car sales, responsible for approximately 80% of transactions, involved alternatively fuelled vehicles.
‘The ban’ on the sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles
Reported by Powersystems The original deadline for the ban on new petrol and diesel sales was 2040 but in February this year, Boris Johnson announced at the UN climate conference (COP26) that the government will bring this forward to 2035 or earlier if feasible, subject to consultation. Another five years has been taken off the original deadline, but the 2035 date is reportedly being kept for the end of hybrid car sales.
Unofficially In February, 2020 Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced his intention to bring forward the ban on sales of new petrol, vehicles from 2040 to 2032. The subsequent Covid-19 pandemic, lockdown and accompanying economic downturn brought the car industry to a standstill in the UK, the Government has since put the 2032 target back to 2035.
2020 was set to be a landmark year for electric vehicle innovation. However, in April 2020 new vehicle sales were down 97% on the previous year. According to figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders which show pure battery-electric cars held just a 1.6 per cent share of the new car market last year.
As of May 2021, the number of total electric cars registered in the UK were more than 535,000 plug-in vehicles with approx. 260,000 BEVs and 280,000 PHEVs registered. Battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) made up 8.4% of all new cars sales in May 2021, with 13,120 registrations. That was down from 12.0% in May 2019, when the figure was boosted by EV firms such as Tesla continuing contactless deliveries. In the first five months of 2021, the 54,051 BEVs sold accounts for 7.5% of the market, compared with 4.3% in 2020.
Launching a car scrap-page scheme?
And of course to support the conversion to electric vehicle the government is reportedly considering launching a car scrap-page scheme, in which drivers could be given up to £6,000 to trade in their diesel or petrol vehicle for an electric one. However, earlier in March this year the government cut the electric car grant from £3,000 to £2,500, and lowered the upper price limit for eligible vehicles from 50,000 to 35000. The move attracted criticism from industry experts who said it sent out the wrong message. Should the reported £6,000 initiative go ahead, it would mean price parity between many electric vehicles and their petrol counterparts.
Is the UK charging infrastructure fit for purpose?
A report issued on the 19 May by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the 2030 target would be missed without urgent action to improve infrastructure – The government has a “mountain to climb” to reach its goals of phasing out new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 and for all new cars to be zero-emission by 2035.
PAC criticised the government for lacking a plan to achieve these targets and tackle the consequences of an all-electric car society, including the impact on the future power needs, the impact on the skills and capabilities required to support the changeover and the impact on the government tax-take due to the loss of fuel duties.
PAC also detailed recommendations into charging infrastructure, stating it isn’t convinced that the government has “sufficiently thought through” how this will expand at the pace required to meet the targets.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has made assumptions about the types of journeys people will make and how they charge their car, but not estimated the number of charge points required across the country to keep up with the increase in electric vehicles (EVs).
Alongside the additional work needed on on-street charging, both the DfT and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) also need to work with other departments to consider the practical implications of the transition to zero-emission cars, the PAC said.
In particular, they should set out how they are going to manage the wider societal impacts such as the impact on power generation and transmission and retraining the workforce.
Concerns need to be answered over electricity demand and Government targets. What effect will electrifying the car fleet have on the power industry? How often will cars be recharged, what additional load will this place on the grid, and where might the need for charging expose capacity restrictions on the network?
According to National Grid Future Energy Scenario (FES), the UK needs approximately 87-113GW (scenario dependent) of renewables capacity by 2030 and 197-231GW by 2050. The current market and options available for new-build renewables are inadequate to keep the UK on track to meet its net-zero target.
As Baroness Brown, vice chair of the Committee on Climate Change, stated at June 2021 launch of the Hydrogen Strategy Now campaign, “the UK missed the boat on wind technology and missed the boat on batteries. We can ‘t afford to miss the boat on hydrogen”.
It looks like the UK is on track for missing the annual ramp up rate of 5 GW as well, with new build renewables currently facing a tough choice regarding their route to market options, with challenging and volatile market conditions making it tough to secure investment and ultimately build-out projects. Reform is needed now!
The National Grid believes that consumer behavior will change to avoid charging at peak times, therefore resulting in a less significant increase to peak demand.
Wider proliferation of electric vehicles will add demand to the grid. However, “smart charging” or “vehicle to grid” can reduce charging at peak times, and the batteries in the vehicles could become an asset to the National Grid, as they have the potential to be used for grid balancing. ‘Smart’ use of the electricity system involves using power at times when demand (and therefore prices) is low. Consumers can benefit from cheaper power, and operators benefit from an easier to balance system and avoiding all cars being charged simultaneously, such as at the end of rush hour.
Smart meters, which are currently being rolled out, have the potential to allow more detailed information on consumption to be sent to energy suppliers, and more reactive use of power for customers. For example, ‘Time-of-use’ tariffs are already available from some energy suppliers, rewarding customers with smart meters who choose to sign up for using power at times of low demand. Integrating smart devices, such as smart charging electric cars, into this mechanism could mean that additional demand for electric cars is significantly reduced.
An extension of smart charging, the concept of ‘Vehicle to Grid’ (V2G), is that when supply is low and demand high, EVs connected to the grid to charge can instead release power back into the grid. Owners of the vehicles can then be paid for this balancing service in a similar way to electricity storage unit operators. In theory, if a vehicle is needed to be charged for a certain time the owner could register that time and this would override the use of the car as a power source. Some suppliers have been developing V2G offers for their customers, though availability is currently limited
Are consumers ready to switch to EVs?
Today, it is a widely held view by the man on the street that a petrol vehicle is more reliable than an electric vehicle, because you are never to far from a petrol pump! The majority of the car-buying public aren’t ready to switch to an electric car.
Perceptions by approx. 27.8 million households advised by the energy regulator Ofgem found that they were unlikely to get an electric vehicle, because batteries do not offer enough range between charges, lack of on-street charging points near homes and of course the price is to high. All points play a significant concern when thinking about switching to an EV.
Statistics from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that 13.6% of new cars sold in the past four months had a plug, while figures from the Department for Transport show that more than half-a-million ultra-low emission vehicles are now being driven on roads across the country.
New research suggests that around one in four households across the UK plan to buy an electric car or plug-in hybrid in the next five years.
It has been reported that there are more public places to charge an Electric Vehicle in the UK (around 30,000) than there are petrol stations, but like all statements ‘the context’ is really important…
Zap-Map.com a UK-wide charging points map for electric cars, says that 24,649 charging points have been installed in 15,680 locations, and 700 added in the last 30 days, with more being added every day. To give you an idea, currently there are charging locations for example 7,526 in London, 2,558 in Scotland, 1742 in the South West.
However, at the time of writing there are currently only 1,080 ultra-rapid charge points and 2,970 rapid chargers at locations in the UK, and this means the difference in facilities on offer between a 20-minute ultra-rapid charge, to hanging around for what could be literally hours.
Quick guide on the the main types of chargers
There are three main types of EV charging – rapid, fast, and slow. These represent the power outputs, and therefore charging speeds, available to charge an EV. Power is measured in kilowatts (kW). Each charger type has an associated set of connectors which are designed for low- or high-power use, and for either AC or DC charging.
- 50 kW DC charging on one of two connector types
- 43 kW AC charging on one connector type
- 100+ kW DC ultra-rapid charging on one of two connector types
- All rapid units have tethered cables
Rapid chargers are the fastest way to charge an EV, often found at motorway services or locations close to main routes. Rapid devices supply high power direct or alternating current – DC or AC – to recharge a car as fast as possible. Depending on model, EVs can be recharged to 80% in as little as 20 minutes, though an average new EV would take around an hour on a standard 50 kW rapid charge point.
Ultra-Rapid DC chargers provide power at 100 kW or more. These are typically either 100 kW, 150 kW, or 350 kW – though other maximum speeds between these figures are possible. These are the next-generation of rapid charge point, able to keep recharging times down despite battery capacities increasing in newer EVs. For those EVs capable of accepting 100 kW or more, charging times are kept down to 20-40 minutes for a typical charge, even for models with a large battery capacity. Even if an EV is only able to accept a maximum of 50 kW DC, they can still use ultra-rapid charge points.
- 7kW fast charging on one of three connector types
- 22kW fast charging on one of three connector types
- 11kW fast charging on Tesla Destination network
- Units are either untethered or have tethered cables
Fast chargers are typically rated at either 7 kW or 22 kW (single- or three-phase 32A). The vast majority of fast chargers provide AC charging, though some networks are installing 25 kW DC chargers with CCS or CHAdeMO connectors. Charging times vary on unit speed and the vehicle, but a 7 kW charger will recharge a compatible EV with a 40 kWh battery in 4-6 hours, and a 22 kW charger in 1-2 hours. Fast chargers tend to be found at destinations such as car parks, supermarkets, or leisure centres, where you are likely be parked at for an hour or more.
- 3 kW – 6 kW slow charging on one of four connector types
- Charging units are either untethered or have tethered cables
- Includes mains charging and from specialist chargers
- Often covers home charging
Most slow charging units are rated at up to 3 kW, a rounded figure that captures most slow-charging devices. In reality, slow charging is carried out between 2.3 kW and 6 kW, though the most common slow chargers are rated at 3.6 kW (16A). Charging on a three-pin plug will typically see the car draw 2.3 kW (10A), while the majority of lamp-post chargers are rated at 5.5 kW because of existing infrastructure – some are 3 kW however. Charging times vary depending on the charging unit and EV being charged, but a full charge on a 3 kW unit will typically take 6-12 hours. Most slow charging units are untethered, meaning that a cable is required to connect the EV with the charge point.
Investment to get Britain ready for more electric vehicles
Ofgem unveils £300m investment to get Britain ready for more electric vehicles. – Ofgem is to invest £300m on more than 200 low carbon projects to get Britain ready for more electric vehicles, with motorway service areas and key trunk road locations across the country set to get the cabling they need to install 1,800 new ultra-rapid charge points. This £300m down payment is just the start of building back a greener energy network which will see well over £40bn of investment in Britain’s energy networks in the next seven years. “The payment will support the rapid take up of electric vehicles which will be vital if Britain is to hit its climate change targets. Drivers need to be confident that they can charge their car quickly when they need to. We’re paving the way for the installation of 1,800 ultra-rapid charge points, tripling the number of these public charge points. Drivers will have more charging options for longer journeys.”
UK businesses are set to invest £15.8bn in the electrification of their vehicle fleets over the next year. – A 50% uplift on their spending during the previous 12 months, according to research, commissioned by Centrica Business Solutions, which revealed that UK firms spent £10.5bn on electric vehicles (EVs) and on-site charging points during the year to March 2021 but are now planning £15.8bn of investment in the same area over the next 12 months– a 50% increase year-on-year. Of these businesses, six in ten (58%) cited the need to meet corporate sustainability targets as the biggest driving factor behind their increased adoption of EV, followed by reducing operational disruption caused by low and zero-emission zones (51%) and the attraction of the lower maintenance and whole-life costs offered by EVs (37%). Range anxiety was reported as the chief concern for a third (34%) of these firms, followed by the need to prioritise business investment elsewhere during the height of the coronavirus crisis (32%).Despite this, two-thirds (67%) of all companies polled claimed they are well-prepared to operate a fully electric fleet by 2030, when the Government’s ban on the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles comes into effect.
Now that 2030 is set in stone as the end of new petrol and diesel sales we need to ensure three things to help get us there, sufficient affordable electric vehicles to meet demand, reliable affordable charging infrastructure that’s available to all and a flexible affordable energy system that can deliver green power where it’s needed.