Smart ways to prepare for electric vehicle charging

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Posted by APM on 26th Feb 2014

Low Carbon London trialA new smart system for charging electric vehicles is being tested in London to help get the electricity network ready for widespread use of alternative fuel vehicles.

If and when electricity starts replacing petrol and diesel as a main fuel source for transport, smart systems will be needed to prevent the electricity system being overloaded by colossal extra demand, or having to re-equip substations and dig up busy roads to lay new cables.

Londons electricity distributor UK Power Networks is working on the Low Carbon London trial with POD Point, Smarter Grid Solutions and Imperial College London.

Between December and April, the companies are testing POD Points new Carbon Sync software and Smarter Grid Solutions active network management system to briefly suspend the flow of electricity to selected public EV charge points at peak times on the network, while still ensuring drivers receive a sufficient level of charge.

Three sites have been selected for the trial, including five public charge points in the City, ten in Beckton and 50 of the most popular points in London. The smart control system is designed to have no noticeable impact on those using the charge points. 

Michael Clark, Low Carbon London programme director, said: Success in these trials could reduce the cost and disruption associated with building new power infrastructure to support the expansion of EV charging systems, benefiting consumers across the country.

We believe this is the first trial of active network management involving electric vehicles in Britain.

Commercial director and co-founder of Smarter Grid Solutions, Alan Gooding, said: Active Network Management is already proven as a highly effective way of connecting larger volumes of distributed energy, such as solar, wind and CHP, to congested electricity networks.

Erik Fairbairn, CEO of POD Point, believes adding electric car charging facilities will require close monitoring: This ensures that drivers are supplied with the electricity they need without potentially overloading the electricity network.

The software used in this trial monitors in real time the demand, the status of all charge points in the network, and the level of charge required by each car in real time.

The Governments Carbon Plan pledges to source ten per cent of UK transport energy from renewable sources by 2020. Without smart controls on the electricity network, estimates suggest a 25 per cent uptake of EVs by 2030 could lead to half the transformers closest to homes or businesses needing an upgrade, potentially increasing the cost of new EV infrastructure.

This is the challenge the new trial is aiming to address. The new software will provide live data showing electricity demand from a cluster of charge points and how much demand could be reduced, if curtailed.

Data collected during the trials will be extrapolated by Imperial College London to model the impact on Londons electricity cables and substations in various scenarios.

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