UK – smart EV charging needed to avoid blackouts

UK MPs stress the need for accessible and reliable charging infrastructure and changed charging habits to meet government’s electric vehicle (EV) ambitions.

The MPs, members of the UK Parliament’s Transport Committee, have said that charging an EV should be convenient, straightforward, and inexpensive across the country, and that smart charging will be necessary to avoid blackouts.

But questions remain on whether the current plans are enough to deliver this charging infrastructure at the public level and whether it will benefit everyone.

As part of its electric vehicle charging infrastructure strategy, the government must explain how it will support the delivery of sufficient and well-maintained charging infrastructure solutions and how it will ensure that the roll-out of charging infrastructure keeps pace with the increase in EVs and that the right types of chargers are in the right locations, says the Committee in its report.

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The Committee notes there is a commitment to mandate that all new private charge points should be equipped with smart functionality. However, the government also should mandate industry to use price as a lever to shift consumer behaviour away from conventional refuelling habits towards ‘a little but often’ approach and incentivise consumers to charge at times when there is less demand on the electricity grid.

Government also should work with National Grid to map the network to identify potential weak areas, especially in rural locations.

The report from the Transport Committee comes hot on the heels of a complementary review from the House of Lords, which expressed concerns over the availability of batteries and the manufacturing supply chain of EVs to meet the demand.

The UK government’s plan is to outlaw the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030 – a date initially set at 2040 but since moved forward to support the net zero by 2050 target.

“To help consumers see their route to a zero-emission world, choosing to run an EV must be as seamless as possible,” comments Chair of the Transport Committee, Huw Merriman.

“Putting guarantees in place on infrastructure is crucial but one report after another flags concerns to government about the provision of EV 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.”

Both the EVs themselves and the charging infrastructure are issues that many countries will be grappling with as more and more entrench their transition dates. A challenge is the number of chargers that are required and the report quotes estimates for 2030 ranging from 280,000 up to 9 million in public areas, i.e. including for use by those without off-street residential access.

The other key focus of the report was on the uptake and affordability of EVs, with the recommendation that government should incentivise car manufacturers to sell an increasing number of zero-emission vehicles.

This should bring these vehicles within reach of more consumers, while a stronger marketplace generated by an increased vehicle supply from global manufacturers to the UK market would also bring down costs, the report says.