back to article UK's national grid 'ready' for e-car expansion

A new study claims to show that if three million of us went out tomorrow and bought plug-in electric cars, the UK's national grid could support our charging needs without missing a beat. The report was carried out by a consortium called the Range Extended Hybrid Electric Vehicle (REHEV) project, led by Jaguar-Land Rover and part …

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Anonymous Coward

Presumably...

...overnight charging will be a fraction of the price of daytime charging?

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Hmmm....

There have been a number of other reports that might throw this one into doubt. For example, we know that we will be losing several power stations in the next few years as they have to close due to their age, and they don't yet have replacements nor will have in the next decade. In fact, I understand that the UK already has to buy electric from France on a very regular basis (like daily).

However, I would like to have an electric car one day...

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Boffin

Presumably based on...

Everybody just using normal 13A domestic sockets.

Which'd mean dog slow charging, not the fast-fast that keeps getting pitched. I wonder how likely the National Grid is to cope with the "uncontrolled charging" scenario then..?

No use saying "Ah, well, that could be managed and staggered" - if I want to recharge for another 100 miles range in 15mins, I want to do it now so I can leave in 15mins, not in four hours when it's all got less busy.

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Tax

Still doesn't adress how the treasury would make good the loss on fuel tax. If it did so by increasing the cost of (peak?) electricty that would probably make the numbers vary even more widely.

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Unhappy

Oh FFS.

Our energy use is unsustainable as things stand. Everyone who isn't part of a special-interests lobby and has read beyond the powergen propaganda knows this to be true. So where will we be getting the power to drive these electric cars, even if they ever become viable for the mass market? Unicorn piss?

Honestly, I can't help thinking we could probably figure our way through this crisis if we didn't waste so much effort fooling the public into thinking the future can in any way resemble the status quo. I despair. We deserve extinction. Just a shame that we're using up all the fossil fuels in the process, so whatever species follows us up the evolutionary ladder will never have an industrial revolution...

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Alert

Hmmm indeed....

Even if the national grid is up to the job (it's certainly possible), the "research team emphasise that local improvements may nevertheless be necessary", according to the press release.

I'd like to see the costs for that.

That's potentially a lot of new substations, new cables to be laid, new electrical installations in each house (if you want anything faster than an overnight charge). At a modest £500/house the additional infrastructure cost comes in at well over £1billion...

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grid may be fine but...

We have a pretty good national power infrastructure, but not enough juice to put on it. Sure we might be able to support many leccy cars plugged in over existing wires but we would have to actually buy the leccy from France as we don't produce enough and are destined to produce less thanks to the Labour inability to do anything unpopular for the long term good.

This is like saying that you Virgin Media 20MB is good enough for anything. Sure the pipe is big but if they don't have any good content then it's next to useless.

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Bronze badge
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Overnight OK?

The only thing that surprised me was the claim the grid/power generation system can sustain unrestricted charging. Which is surely not an issue anyway as most people would choose to do most charging at 'white meter' charges (look how far people drive to say 2p/litre on petrol).

Overnight there is plenty of capacity - even with the projected loss of nuclear and some major coal fired plant. Indeed it can help the system by using otherwise unused power capacity (particulary nuclear and wind with almost zero marginal cost and CO2 impact). Electric car batteries provide a user paid solution to the grids perennial problem in not be able to store electricity.

BTW chacking the Nat Grid monitor - the channel link from France is nearly always 'full-on' supplying 2Gw to us from their nuclear/wind fleet. Presumably because they can make a better offer than local generators. I wonder if another 2Gw link might be better than the projected Kingsnorth coal power station blowing our CO2 target from the same Kent coast.

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@Tax

Road pricing- it's 2 for the price of 1 for the govt. They get to know where we are and they can fiddle with the rates as much as they like.

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Paris Hilton

hmmm

1 GW / 3000000 cars = 333 Watts each.

Thats not enough to power my drill and is a about half a bhp.

Are we sure they are talking about cars? sounds more like the figures are for bicycles. how are those figures calculated??

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grid ready

if you assume

no power stations go off line in near future

no new homes

plenty full supply of oil and gas

gov actuality builds those wind/nuke plants it says it will

we can buy leeky from France

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Stop

David...

The whole POINT of leccy cars is that they're massively more efficient than those using ICEs. Overnight charging (the obvious approach for most cars, most days) will have bugger all effect on on generation needs, or may even make more efficient use of baseload power that's already being generated to do little more than keep office lights on all night. You could turn off HEP, wind, coal at night, but there would be little point and/or major problems if yo so did.

As for you, Steve, have you not heard about our government's brilliant ideas to tax you as you drive via road pricing?

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Transportation or Generation Capacity

Is this report just stating that the power grid has the capacity to carry sufficient power to charge all these cars? As I have no difficulty believing that.

I'd be slightly more surprised if they were attempting to say that we have enough generation capacity to *produce* the electricity required to charge all these electric vehicles. After all, we have been getting warned repeatedly that the UK is dangerously low on generation capacity even with the *current* demand.

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capacity

Perhaps it should be pointed out that it's not the National Grid that supplies the power, but the generating stations at the other end. The National Grid was evolved when this was an industrial country, with heavy power demands. Since we've now turned to selling each other promises to pay, the generating side has declined, whilst the distribution side being largely passive, remains.

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Rob
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Bull

They are already paniking about the Olympics coming to town and causing rolling blackouts. I personnally don't want to sit in teh dark so a bunch of people in leotards can leap about (more so if I can't see it on my telly and have a cuppa at the same time, whilst charging up my electric car and listening to an internat radio station and all this while I wait for my dinner to cook on the electric hob, whilst my boiler keeps me warm.)

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Anonymous Coward

@Steve

Easy, raise VAT on Leccy...as a errrmm Green Duty, yes that'll do.....

It's a Win, Win situation. Goverment gets more cash and er the Goverment gets more cash.

Kerrrrching.

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National generating capacity

Demand goes pretty low during the night (30GW min), so I can understand that overall it's possible that "no new power stations would be needed".

What I don't quite understand is the claim that it's still OK even with "uncontrolled charging". Presumably, most people will come home from work at more or less the same time, plug the car in and pop the kettle on. When is peak demand? Usually early evening.

Small (overnight) EV chargers apparently pull ~3kW. 3 million of these means up to 9GW extra peak load - right when you don't want it...

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Stop

More importantly where's the green? But there is hope...

None of you have yet pointed out the slight problem of (I quote the Digest of UK Energy Statistics 2008 report):

"In 2007, every 1 toe of secondary electricity consumed by final users required, on average, 1.0

toe of coal, 0.9 toe of natural gas, 0.4 toe of primary electricity (nuclear, natural flow hydro and

imports) and 0.2 toe of oil and renewables combined."

I am currently looking into this whole area for my PhD. My point is a lot more energy goes into providing electricity than electricity actually gets delivered. I don't yet know the maths involving just how much more energy efficient electric vehicles are, but I have understood that unless they are substantially more efficient, in theory we could end up burning MORE fossil fuels were road transport to go electric, not less.

However, there is yet hope - I've spotted a few papers on Vehicle-to-grid power (V2G) you might find worth looking into. There are a few researchers who believe that electric cars could balance an increase in renewable energy supplies by offsetting their intermittency (and tendency to over-produce electricity) by providing distributed managed storage (amongst other things). This could also offset the costs of infrastructure, or possible upgrades to local network capacities (allowing the faster charging you are interested in).

But still one resounding problem remains: implementation. Should we find ways to make charging universal - not mattering where you park your car, then all should be fair. Otherwise, people rich enough to afford houses with garages or at least driveways, could benefit from the virtue of selling power back to the grid, while those of us who for instance live in converted-to-flats town houses in unsavoury areas will be prevented from doing so. Truly, the more money you have, the more money you get. I have heard a few physicists musing the idea of inducive charging (hands free, plugs free).

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Silver badge

So what about..

... all those coal fired power stations and unclear ones too. Surely we don't need them if theres enough leecy for all the cars.

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Boffin

Help please (Emily Parry) or any one.

Can anyone tell me what the "toe" is in Emily Parry's post above means? I see Emily's quoting the Digest of UK Energy Statistics 2008 report. And I assume it's not a typo as the rest of Emily's post reads just fine.

Thanks for taking the time to post.

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@Help please (Emily Parry) or any one.

Tonne of Oil Equivalent

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Definition of toe

Apart from the smallest digit on your foot, toe is an abreviation for 'tonnes of oil equivalent' and is a unit for energy. It really threw me when I first started reading that thing! I know there will be physicists screaming about non-SI units (I also found it frustrating) but for some reason the government uses this one.

The DUKES report has an excellent section where they have kindly converted all energy use in the UK to this unit, so one can compare say road transport use directly to the amount of energy used for domestic purposes, not only this, but it also shows what the constituents were in this same unit e.g. coal, natural gas and secondary electricity. Obviously people quibble over the conversions, and what is and what isn't included in this report and the details. But I'm finding it very useful in my studies.

Not quite sure what Will is getting at with regards to coal fired powerstations... Does he mean that there would be no need for fossil fuel derived coal powerstations if we used renewables for electricity generation, backed up by storage and regulation (keeping the grid stable) from V2G power provided by our new electric cars? One can hope so. There is no surplus generation of electricity at the moment (that I know of) although it's true wind farms have to be disconnected at the moment when they are producing too much power.

Does anyone know if the report mentioned in this article includes V2G power? I'd be very interested to know. Also, does anyone know how environmentally friendly the batteries are for these new electric cars?

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