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Electric Vehicles – The Hidden Challenges

March 19, 2020

The uptake in electric vehicles is growing considerably, but is electricity infrastructure able to cope with such a massive increase in demand?

For as long as the car has been around, the electric vehicle has always been in the background. It is fair to say that we now have the chemistry and physics in place to deliver much better battery performance which, in some cases, outperforms the combustion engine. Transport has been a technology we have never let go of and have always strove to improve and develop. For as long as civilisation has existed, we have wanted to travel faster, safer and more comfortably. Anyone who has been lucky enough to travel in QSuite will testify to this!


The Hidden Challenges


The uptake in electric vehicles is growing quickly and all of these vehicles require electricity. This may come as a surprise to some, but in the UK our electricity infrastructure is not designed to cope with such a massive increase in electricity demand. It’s not that there isn’t the desire to increase capacity; the fact is that the demand for electrification could tip the limit of the grid’s capacity during peak demand. While the planning and designing of new grid infrastructure is taking place, it is an incredibly complex and expensive task to upgrade the grid to compensate for vehicle electrification and, inevitably, it will take time. Remember, it won’t just be your car: it will be trains, buses, emergency vehicles, logistics etc.


Brainstorming Solutions


This isn’t a new question or a new problem; there are already thoughts about how this can be mitigated. One of the problems we are working on at Critical Software is the ability for the network operators to know when a vehicle is plugged in and control how much electricity the car can take during peak demand. We have spent several years developing key parts of the UK’s smart programme and we are ideally placed to deliver real answers to the problem.


What if the car is already full? We will be able to tell the car to power the house- after all, an electric vehicle is simply a giant battery on wheels. What if you’re somebody who is at home during the day? Your solar panel can charge your car during the day and in turn power your house during the night. During the early hours of the morning, if required, your car can take energy from the grid. The smart element of all of this will be that your car, or charger, will go and grab a cheap tariff so you will be encouraged to charge at 2am and not 6pm.


Building the Future


Critical Software have started a research project to investigate the implementation and integration of such technology and are about to begin work with an electric vehicle charger manufacturer to test its feasibility. This work will include a prepayment solution as well as integration into grid information systems that will show the grid operators where the largest demand is and how to control it so the burden can be controlled and managed.


We are a problem-solving company, and this is a problem we can solve. We will soon share the results of our research. Meanwhile learn more on how we have been involved in ground-breaking projects in the energy sector, including the deployment of more than 50 million smart meters.

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Energy