The potential impact of electric vehicles (EVs) and the associated infrastructure on the UK’s energy system is being largely ignored, according to speakers at Solar Media’s Energy Storage Summit 2017.
Speaking during one of the first sessions of the event’s second day yesterday (1 March), Sam Goss, investment director for energy at Octopus, claimed forecasts for the growth of energy storage in the UK do not include the growing presence of EV’s on UK roads.
“On the volume side, the bit that we think is being relatively ignored is the role that electric vehicles are going to play in this. Electric vehicles are basically, in my view, a free source of flexibility that is going to come and basically swamp the system,” he said.
“If you look at a world where 20% of new vehicles are, in the early 2020s, going to be electric, that adds roughly 1GWh of batteries to the system and that’s assuming less than 10% of what’s out there can actually be used for things like ancillary services.
“This is absolutely enormous, it’s five times the last EFR tender so my concern is that a lot of forecasts are not taking this into account and that’s why at the moment we’re in a bit of a wait and see pattern.”
The number of plug-in or fully electric vehicles remains low in comparison to the total number of cars on the road, however it has grown considerably. According to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), around 85,000 claims have been made through the Plug-in Car and Van Grant schemes by the end of 2016.
With additional vehicles registered outside of the scheme, the real figure is thought to be closer to 90,000 and it is expected that this will increase further.
Electric vehicles have been placed “at the heart” of the UK’s industrial strategy by the business secretary Greg Clark, while policy is rapidly developing to incentivise increased EV market penetration and regulate the roll-out of charging infrastructure.
However fast chargers, which are expected to become the norm for publically accessible charge points, are thought to place a new strain on the grid over time as Niall Riddell, head of special projects at EDF, explained yesterday.
“The charging systems that are in place today are getting bigger and heavier in terms of their draw from the grid – 120kW you’re getting out of a Tesla supercharger at the moment. That’s putting strain on the grid so finding solutions to allow that infrastructure to work with the grid so we’re not seeing huge spikes in localised areas is going to be really important,” he said.
“How it’s going to evolve we’re not certain but it’s definitely one to watch and in terms of elephants in the room, it’s probably one that doesn’t get enough attention. They’re definitely something which will become more important across the energy storage space.”
Trials are ongoing across the country to try and bridge the gap between the grid and the mobile storage units offered by EVs. CENEX is carrying out vehicle-to-grid trials to explore the use of EVs in providing ancillary services to the grid when connected to charging points, while Nissan and Enel are carrying out similar tests.
However, CENEX technical specialist Sikai Huang explained at the summit yesterday that there are still some barriers to wider use of the technology, most notably that drivers could return to their vehicles with less energy stored within them than before.
V2G technology also increases the number of cycles an EV’s battery undergoes, increasing degradation of the hardware.
“There’s a really complex but interesting problem to be solved around how can we get the EV infrastructure to interface with all these EVs to enable us to ensure that EVs can play a role within the energy system as a whole,” Riddell added.