My Electric Avenue has just released a new report about its program in the UK that is designed to explore what impact electric cars will have on utility companies. My Electric Avenue seeks to discover ways that the increased demand for electricity can be met with the least need for new power lines and other infrastructure upgrades.
Using the Nissan LEAF as its vehicle of choice, My Electric Avenue has been encouraging neighborhood clusters to adopt the use of an electric car to see how concentrating the demand in small areas affects local utility companies. It finds that the key to preventing overloading of existing circuits and minimizing utility company costs is using smart technologies like its Esprit program.
Esprit can manage when and how much an individual electric car gets charged based upon time of day and input cues from drivers about when they expect to begin driving again and how far. The program then spreads out the load on the existing grid to prevent overloading that can cause transformers to fail or power lines to overheat.
The study is timely. The latest UK sales figures show that sales of plug-in cars are growing at an increasing rate. By the end of June 2015, electric car registrations for the period January to June 2015 were 14,586 – more than the total for all of 2014. The figures show that electric vehicle registrations are up 256% year-on-year, which equates to UK consumers buying an electric vehicle every 18 minutes.
“Whilst these levels of EV and PHEV uptake sound high in the short term, ownership of such vehicles is expected to cluster, with certain people / demographics living in similar areas choosing these vehicles ahead of others” says My Electric Avenue Project Director, Dave Roberts. “The UK is committed to encouraging the take-up of more plug-in cars.”
He adds, “My Electric Avenue has shown that some local electricity networks will require investment if multiple electric vehicles are charging at the same time. Thankfully, the project has also shown that there is a technological solution to this problem, but we now need the car industry and the energy industry to work with each other to agree on ways to implement solutions in a timely manner.”
The work by My Electric Avenue has implications for the utility industry in the US as well. Stewart Reid, head of asset management and innovation at Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution explains: “This is an interesting challenge, as consumer behavior and uptake can be notoriously difficult to predict and we need to ensure our networks can cope with the array of new demands placed on them. My Electric Avenue is an important project for us, as it is both helping to understand the problem and looking into a cost-effective solution that can be deployed at speed when the time comes.”
In the US, not every utility company has welcomed the challenge that electric and plug-in cars presents. The most important finding of the My Electric Avenue report is that collaboration among all stakeholders is the key to meeting that challenge.
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