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UKPN trial shows potential to bypass traditional network upgrades for thousands of EV connections

Image: UKPN.

Image: UKPN

UK Power Networks (UKPN) has found that over 500 electric vehicle (EV) chargers could be connected around a single electricity substation using state-of-the-art technology over building new cables or substations.

This comes out of a trial using an artificial intelligence (AI) simulation to successfully test Active Response software on a substation in Tooting, south London to automatically move electrical capacity around the network to safely accommodate more low carbon technologies like electric vehicles or heat pumps.

The Active Response processed vast amounts of data, UKPN said, and used switches to automatically reconfigure power flows around the network and efficiently distribute electrical load across the available infrastructure.

One of the simulations run as part of the trial tested a peak demand scenario, with the system identifying a way to unlock 1,000kW of capacity, the equivalent to 142 fast chargers. There was also scope for more from other cables, according to the distribution network operator (DNO).

This solution could release capacity for 568 additional EV chargers in Tooting, with there being 195 primary substations like the Tooting substation and 1,313 across the South East and East of England that share similarities, meaning the software has the potential to enable thousands more fast chargers to be connected.

UKPN is now preparing to trial the system on the live electricity network, with Ian Cameron, head of customer service and innovation at UKPN, stating that to meet net zero "we need to facilitate millions of electric vehicles and heat pumps and work even faster to connect more renewables", with the AI trial showing that future can become a reality and that "intelligent innovation can have a multiplier effect".

This is of particular importance as UKPN forecasts that up to 4.5 million electric vehicles could be on the road in London, the South East and East of England by 2030.

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