back to article Sniffing substations will solve 'leccy car charging woes, reckons upstart

A power consumption monitoring startup reckons its substation monitoring technology can be used to help the spread of electric car charging points. The OpenLV project aims to deploy a “low cost substation intelligence platform” that monitors local low voltage* substations and meshes them together to supply extra current as …


        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Tesla is not typical

          "Plans are in hand (Mercedes, VW, BMW at least) to build a 350kw public charge point network in Europe. That keeps us in the 20 minute to 80% range."

          Based on Pen-y-gors' example above that'll allow 3 cars to be charged at once. Even on the basis of taking a break every 300 miles of motorway travel it's not enough. How often, at least during the working day, do you see a motorway service station car park with only 3 cars in it?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Tesla is not typical

        "I used to think standardised makes sense, except at one point I remembered that the batteries are about half the car at the moment, and replacing them in a hot swap would be difficult. "

        Maybe the car makers need a paradigm shift in car design. Currently, they mainly look like standard ICE cars which means people expect the usual boot space etc. Maybe new electric cars need to be more modular with some standardised parts/shapes so a battery swap becomes practical. Maybe the "car" is just a cab that sits on a swappable chassis that contains wheels, motors and batteries. Got a long trip? Get the big chassis today. Maybe in 20 years, we will barely recognise a car compared to today.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tesla is not typical

      Until electric cars can get charged in roughly the amount of time it takes to fuel a gasoline car, along with the charging stations as abundant as gas stations, I don't see electric vehicles totally replacing gas cars.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Tesla is not typical

        Until electric cars can get charged in roughly the amount of time it takes to fuel a gasoline car

        I would add to that - and get the same distance as a full tank of fuel (petrol, diesel) in a normal car electric cars will be nothing than 'go to the local shop' transport and that assumes they are in a city or town.

    2. inmypjs Silver badge

      Re: Tesla is not typical

      "A Tesla is not the typical domestic car."

      No they almost have a practical range.

    3. Dave Harvey

      Re: Tesla is not typical

      You're absolutely right - 11kW public access is useless, which of courses explain why Scottish/Welsh governments are paying a fortune to get them (or even worse, fancily-branded 13A sockets!) installed :-( TBH, even the 40kW "Chademo" chargers are not much better.

      For home/overnight use, 32A (7kW) is perfectly adequate for almost all cases, and for "on the move", at least 100kW is needed. Anything in between these figures has very limited utility, except possibly workplaces, where an 8 hour (or perhaps 4 hour if swapping) charge time would work, making 10-22kW feasible.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Tesla is not typical

        Cars with 100KWh of battery are going to be very rare for 5-10 years. Go look at how much a P100D costs.

        That is serious money.

        For us mere mortals, a Nissan Leaf with a 40KWh battery (made in Sunderland) is more typical.

        in a few years, 40KWh will be 50-60KWh but for most of us that would mean charging once a week.

        I have a PHEV (Outlander) and get around 22 miles of local driving. That usually costs me £0.00p as I charge it from my PV system when the sun is shining or at my local Open CP (at Sainsbury's). That is free leccy for any EV/PHEV.

        Until you have a proper PHEV or EV then you don't really understand the whole concept. Getting a PV system for your home is a no brainer when you have a battery powered vehicle.

        My overall leccy consumption is around 50% of what it was before I had the PV system installed,

        I'll be that that reduction in grid comsuption was not included in the 'back of envelope' calculations made by other posters OR the huge amounts of Offshore wind that has been approved this year.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Tesla is not typical

          "a Nissan Leaf with a 40KWh battery (made in Sunderland)"

          At present. Is replacing the entire UK IC fleet with electric their plan for keeping car mass-manufacture in the UK post-Brexit?

          " That is free leccy for any EV/PHEV."

          That's the rest of us subsidising you. HMG is very good at handing out other people's money to get something they have been lobbied to want get going. Don't think that will continue.

    4. Callam McMillan

      Re: Tesla is not typical

      Pen-y-gors. A 120kW charger will be pulling a lot more than 80A. A 100A low voltage 3-phase supply tops out at 70kW (415 volts x 100 amps x sqrt(3) = 71880 watts)

    5. FlossyThePig

      Re: Tesla is not typical

      If you want a Tesla 11kW charger you need to have a three phase supply. The normal Tesla domestic charger is 7.4kW.

      Have a look at some of Robert Llewellyn's videos on and see what's happening on the Orkney Islands.

    6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Tesla is not typical

      "We're in the process of getting an ultra-fast charger for our community shop, which will do a typical battery in 15-20 mins (have a coffee while you wait)"

      Whist having your coffee you can also chat to all those queuing up to wait their turn for a charge.

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "meshes them together to supply extra current as required when demand spikes"

    So.... does this need extra cabling, and if not, why isn't this load balancing already happening?

    This also misses the core issue:- we need a lot more generation capacity *and* energy storage capacity (for renewables) to allow us all to own an electric car, even if only (say) 10% of us plug it in each night.

    What I don't get is why *none* of the political parties are pointing out that electric cars are a luxury item and therefore should *not* be subsidised; someone on an average salary in the UK can't afford one. I like the concept of electric cars, but I'm damned if I can see why someone at the lower end of the income spectrum should be subsidising the purchase of a car for a higher earner.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      "but I'm damned if I can see why someone at the lower end of the income spectrum should be subsidising the purchase of a car for a higher earner."

      It's an industrial strategy, just with the subsidies for business being better hidden to avoid regulations.

    2. Commswonk Silver badge

      What I don't get is why *none* of the political parties are pointing out that electric cars are a luxury item and therefore should *not* be subsidised...

      Because politicians like to live in a world where external realities are excluded when those realities are in conflict with their deeply cherished beliefs. In the case of EVs technical realities are ruthlessly ignored because to recognise them would result in the politicians having to acknowledge that their dreams are just that; dreams.

      EVs are seen as an "environmental" matter and as is all too often obvious the environmental lobby has politicians in some sort of Vulcan death grip.

  2. Lee D Silver badge

    I have a huge 32A commando connector thing on the outside of my house.

    It runs an electric kiln but, while you're there, why not make it a permanent and swappable fixture so you can use it for other things in the future, building works, etc.

    But, unfortunately, it would be bog useless for even standard charging of an electric car the way I use mine. I'd just about be able to use it for the little electric moped that the other person who lives in the house would use incessantly (they're Italian, though, so...)

    Given that that one device can pull more current than ANYTHING ELSE in the house (even a boiler or cooker), and that even that device is not sufficient, I can see no reasonable alternative that people can use. The wiring here is actually quite good, I pity those people who don't have modern wiring though.

    You're basically talking about a significant portion of people who currently own a car having to upgrade not only their fuseboxes / fit electrical points etc. but also upgrade their incoming feed entirely (and so the electric company will demand new meters, checks, etc. along the way). That's an incredible expense.

    The alternative is that petrol stations become charging stations, but then you are stuffed if your battery does die while you're on holiday - you need a tow to get it going. And the queues are going to be horrendous if you have to wait 20+ minutes per customer, unless you literally have five times as many charging points as you did petrol pumps. Which just adds to the problem.

    I can't see it happening any time soon. I doubt they'll ever reach their petrol-car cutoff dates. I foresee an endless pushing-back of that date. Especially as they get no tax from it, but have to pay a fortune to provision for it.

    1. Dave Harvey

      Lee D:

      "But, unfortunately, it would be bog useless for even standard charging of an electric car the way I use mine"

      I'm intrigued - without giving away too many personal details, how far do you drive each day, and how long are you home for? I ask as 7.3kW x 10 hours (1 hour to go to bed, 8 hours sleeping and 1 hour to get up) would charge just about any car on the market from a sane figure to get home on (say 10%) to a sensible long-term charge (say 85%).

      I'm speaking as a Tesla owner (admittedly 70kW) with a mixed pattern of driving, who in 15 months has never yet failed to have a charged car in the morning, from a 32A socket!

      1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

        Ultra conmuter

        He must be conmuting somthing like more than 100 miles on each direction per day.. otherwise, the car would be charged...

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Ultra conmuter

          Or he could be a roving contractor or some other person who has to extensively drive his own car every day for a living.

  3. Jim Mitchell

    Unit confusion

    All this talk of KWs and amps in the comments is confusing me. I thought the unit of electricity in the UK was the tea kettle?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Unit confusion

      "I thought the unit of electricity in the UK was the tea kettle?"

      What's a tea kettle? Is that like a kettle for boiling water but special in some way in that it only makes tea? No coffee, hot chocolate, Pot Noodles or even covfefe?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Unit confusion

        You don't want to boil the water for coffee, hot chocolate and pot noodles are best done in a wide-open pot or decent-sized saucepan since you want to put the stuff in the water and keep boiling it for a bit first (especially if you're using milk with the hot chocolate since you want to avoid boiling milk for long).

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The next step up from 7kW is often 22kW. That requires a 3 phase supply - not common in domestic situations.

    Even a 3.6kW charger is often connected via a separate breaker wired into the supply between the meter and the normal consumer unit.

    An electric cooker or shower is often rated more than 7kW, so it is not an unreasonable load. Although those devices do not often run continuously for several hours. But night storage heaters do often run continuously for some hours - so a single phase electric car charger is comparable to night storage heaters. If everyone converted to those then it would probably pose a problem for the supply. But that hasn't happened.

    Some smarts could be added to the system so that if there is a large demand from the house then the car charging reduces its load. That would limit the draw to some safe value for the wires to the house. But the local supply network would be designed on the assumption that houses don't all impose a large continuous load, so they could easily be overloaded if they are not monitored. Some smarts put into the local network could be used to tell houses when they should restrict their demand. But that would cause problems if people wake up on a cold morning to find their car has not charged up (or preheated) due to too great a demand overnight.

  5. Mage Silver badge

    PR spin?

    "“Currently, electricity network operators don’t have enough information about how much spare capacity there is on local electricity networks."

    Maybe some don't. I don't believe it's true in most of Europe.

    Anyway, if EV was something regular people could afford rather than something subsided for the rich there isn't even a 1/100th of the capacity needed.

    The Irish network operator has been told to sell its EV charging points, or find some other way to fund them. Ordinary electricity users are paying as they are subsidized by about €25 M a year. I've seen such a point once, so imagine how much that subsidy would be if they were as common as petrol stations.

    Also no "fuel" tax, unlike any other method of transport. A hidden subsidy unless we had cheap fusion power, or wave power economics & technology was solved.

  6. Missing Semicolon Silver badge


    That's how much load there would be if all the cars (not trucks) currently being driver, were all electric and were charged overnight.

    Information sourced from publicly available data.

    The extra load 7pm-7am would be 66GW. Right now, the overnight power usage is 20GW.

    1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

      Re: 66GW

      Thumb down?

      Take the total amount of petrol and diesel used on the roads by cars in one year.

      Multiply by the energy density of the fuels to get total energy.

      Assume that vehicles will only be charged overnight, so work out the power by dividing total energy by 365*12 hours


      While the direct conversion from petroleum-sourced energy to battery-sourced energy could be argued about, I remember working out the power efficiency of a Nissan Leaf against something like a Peugeot 106, and finding that at the power station the difference was modest.

      Total peak generation in the UK is currently 78.3GW, of which 68.4GW is "Major Power Producers". The remaining 10 is "non-MPP", including: "autogenerators, businesses that generate their own electricity and may export surplus to the grid, and microgeneration by the domestic and commercial sectors"

      Generation capacity is going down as old coal stations close; the ability of the Grid to push out 86GW every night is dependent on a considerable amount of capacity building. Hinckley Point will not cover it!

  7. Phukov Andigh Bronze badge

    we don't fuel gas cars at home

    so why the insistence on recharging electrics at home? a large battery/supercap bank on a ubiquitous corner "filling station" right along major electrical supply lines would allow more efficient charging and no worries about datasets and potentially millions of homes needing to update charging technology whenever standards change. No worries about intrusive systems to figure out "which power is used for the car so it can be taxed separately" schemes.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: we don't fuel gas cars at home

      Then what happens during rush hour when the "filling stations" get seriously slammed?

    2. gotes

      Re: we don't fuel gas cars at home

      This should be obvious. It takes much longer to charge an EV than it does to fill a fuel tank at a filling station. People usually leave their cars at home overnight, which is a great opportunity to charge the battery.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: we don't fuel gas cars at home

        AT home? Or NEAR their home? Not everyone has driveways or even OWN their residences.

        Plus, you may not get it so much in the tiny UK, but the US is BIG, and road trips are pretty common. You're gonna need a way to handle long distances by way of "refueling" stations, and the design of the batteries may not be conducive to a swap-out.

  8. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Street parking

    Home charging assumes that the car owner has at least a driveway. I wonder what percentage of car owners would be able to charge their car at home? Not a great proportion would be my bet. You can't realistically drop a cable from an 18th story window to the parking area of the apartment block. So most people will not get an electric car unless and until they are confident that there are sufficient public charging points that they won't end up unable to drive to work.

    I have to park in either a shared private car park or on the street. The nearest car charging point is 15 miles from my home - and there are only two of them. Thus an electric car is not a feasible proposition for me.

    1. gotes

      Re: Street parking

      At least where I live, it seems the local council are willing to paint "Reserved for EV" spaces right outside your door.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Old news?

    What's all this allegedly-new stuff telling us that My Electric Avenue didn't already tell us three or four years ago?

    "The My Electric Avenue Project was delivered between January 2013 and December 2015 by EA Technology on behalf of Scottish and Southern Energy Networks (SSEN) as part of the Low Carbon Networks (LCN) Fund suite of innovation projects"


    "How local electricity networks can cope with charging clusters of electric vehicles - My Electric Avenue’s final results reveal all…

    • Across Britain 32% of local electricity networks (312,000 circuits) will require intervention when 40% - 70% of customers have EVs

    • New technology could reduce the cost by around £2.2 billion up to 2050"


    My Electric Avenue is a three-year Ofgem-funded project that has been carrying out trials to discover the impact that charging clusters of electric vehicles (EVs) might have on local electricity networks at peak times.



    Or take this as an oversimplified starting point: given a practical domestic charger, and a practical domestic EV, most folks EV's will need to charge for very very roughly as long as they have been driven. Obviously that doesn't cover all cases, but it's a good guideline for lots of them. If you drive for an hour a day, you need to recharge for an hour at home (less if a fast charger is available at work, at supermarket, on high street car parks, etc).

  10. DougS Silver badge

    Now you won't be laughing at us crazy Americans

    With our 200A or 400A breaker panels in most new construction. I recall more than once reading comments from non-Americans wondering why in the world we needed so much electricity. Guess we were just planning ahead and didn't know it :)

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Now you won't be laughing at us crazy Americans

      The US has half the voltage.

      200A at 110V is 22kW

      100A at 230V is 23kW

      Transmission losses scale as the cube of the current, double the current and you quadruple transmission losses.

      - Though it isn't that simple as the US tends to use local poletop transformers each feeding one or two homes while the UK generally uses local substations feeding 30 or 40 homes.

      Finally, many US homes have air conditioning which represents a relatively high continuous load. Choosing between charging or heating/cooling is probably not a useful tradeoff.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Now you won't be laughing at us crazy Americans

        No, the US feeds 230v into those 200A and 400A panels, with two phases of 115v. Combine the two hots and you get 230v, use just one of them and you get the 115 volts that most items in the home use.

        Thus a 200A panel will supply 46 kW, though per code they are supposed to be spec'ed at 80% continuous draw, so you shouldn't draw more than 37 kW for any sustained period of time. In reality it is difficult to draw that much, because you'd have to exactly balance the 115 volt draws on either phase. In practice you'll end up with more on one than the other, so realistically if you think you'll need more than 30 kW for any sustained period of time you should go with the 400A panel.

  11. Tom 7 Silver badge

    In around 1907 it took 3 minutes to turn around an electric bus with a new battery

    if we cant improve on that....

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: In around 1907 it took 3 minutes to turn around an electric bus with a new battery

      If you swap the battery do you swap in single use alkaline cells and chuck out the old one or do you recharge it? If you recharge it how do you do that without imposing the same load on the supply network as recharging in-vehicle?

      Simply swapping batteries only solves part of the problem and quite possibly introduces new ones.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: In around 1907 it took 3 minutes to turn around an electric bus with a new battery

        Swapping batteries allows you to balance out the draw throughout a 24 hour period (assuming there are enough spare battery packs) whereas in vehicle charging means you will hit your peak when there's the most traffic. One of the peak traffic periods is afternoon rush hour, which is also the peak load in summer, so you really don't want to be adding the charging of all those cars on top that peak!

        The chargers at the stations could be controlled so when it gets hot and the load on the grid begins to peak, the charging of those spare batteries shuts off. They could also preferentially charge late at night when grid demand is low and pricing is better. In fact, you could even reverse the flow and discharge the spare batteries to supplement the grid during extreme load situations during heat waves. That would be preferable to overload leading to a blackout, which no one likes when it is 100 degrees out.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: In around 1907 it took 3 minutes to turn around an electric bus with a new battery

          The thing is, peak traffic time also tends to be peak refueling time, meaning the time when you can least afford to charge batteries is also the time you're going to need lots of full batteries PDQ. So many, perhaps, that there's not enough room for them all. I mean, I've seen stations with 12 or even 20 pumps have cars waiting in line outside the entrance and even double-parking desperate for a fillup at the of the workday. They often need their underground tanks refilled every 2-3 days, and we're talking 20,000-gallong tanks plus. Run those figures through your head and figure out just how much energy is transferred in a very busy fueling station every day. Do you really think you can achieve the same volume with battery swaps?

          Frankly, we'd be better off working on a containerized fail-safe reactor module and use the excess from those to make synthetic fuel by sucking up waste products.

  12. Danny Boyd

    I have an excellent solution: charge EVs from portable diesel generators. This way we get emission-free vehicles and no power grid overloads!

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Tesla do this in several locations.

      The UK National Grid has a hige array of thousands of diesel generators used for surging and "black start" capacity.

      It's not as daft as it sounds - large diesel generators are far more efficient than vehicles.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        You could also use natural gas generators, which are even cleaner than diesel/gasoline engines, and equally efficient in large forms. Obviously you would eventually want clean generation, but you can't put up all those turbines and panels overnight.

        I'm not sure how much natural gas the UK has, but the US has more than we know what to do with as a byproduct of fracking. Other than older areas of the NE, the US has a very well developed nationwide natural gas pipeline system so this would be quite practical as a short/medium term measure to supplement the grid for EVs until everyone has solar panels on their rooftop and will never use the grid to charge it except on long trips.

  13. bin

    I may be missing something here, but all these lovely bits of copper trailing across paths and drives are surely going to attract the attention of 'collectors' who'll just be able to either unplug or use bolt croppers and heavy duty rubber underwear. After all they target railway lines already, this should be like taking unhealthy sugar based products from a non-gender specific infant.

  14. WereWoof

    Already had at least 3 power cuts here this last 6 months, the portents for Electric vehicles are Ohminous , , , , ,

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    EA Technology

    Sooooo...we should expect shit servers on day one, season passes and incremental annual upgrades?

  16. Pat Harkin

    Recharging on my home supply?

    Can't I just have a Mr Fusion?

  17. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    Yes, so far just some promising lab results (and we all know how that can work out IRL), but still interesting:

    Adding a bit of asphalt speeds lithium battery charging by 20 times

    Charging fast(er) would make things easier.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      But doesn't that raise the risk of things DIScharging faster, as in higher risk of thermal runaways?

  18. Jtom Bronze badge

    The existing grid cannot support widespread use of EVs. There are no plans to upgrade the grid, so the assumption must be that those in power have no intention of the masses using EVs. Yet they have announced an ultimate ban on ICEs. Connect the dots, people. The intent is to get the masses out of cars and onto mass transit, without the politically untenable position of saying the average person is banned from owning a car. All they need do is require separate metering, then charge more than people can afford.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Connect the dots, people. The intent is to get the masses out of cars and onto mass transit, without the politically untenable position of saying the average person is banned from owning a car."

      Except there are plenty of places where mass transit doesn't exist yet the essentials are too far away (or the weather too inclement) for walking, meaning it's own a car or bust. Plus what about all those people who regularly go places not serviced by mass transit?


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