Electric vehicle infrastructure and Road to Zero

electric-charge

Lord RedesdaleLord Redesdale, Energy Managers Association CEO, speaks to Government Europa on the Road to Zero strategy, outlining how much additional electric vehicle infrastructure will be needed to meet electric vehicle demand.

The UK Government’s Road to Zero Strategy sets out a list of proposals focusing on huge expansions of green and electric vehicle infrastructure across the country, in a bid to clean up the cars already on the roads and drive the uptake of electric and zero emission vehicles. The main bullet of the strategy is to ensure that at least half of the new cars being sold across the UK are ultra-low emission by 2030, including up to 40% of new vans. The strategy runs alongside the government’s air quality plan which outlines that the UK will put an embargo on the sale of new petrol/diesel cars and vans by 2040.

Electric vehicle sales are gaining speed across Europe and we are seeing more electric cars driving on our roads. This is of course great news for air quality and is a positive step in reversing climate change, however, with the industry growing as quickly as it is, having enough infrastructure to support demand is extremely important. Without the electric vehicle infrastructure in place to produce and store high amounts of renewable energy and to charge vehicles quickly and effectively, electric vehicles will be of little benefit to the everyday road user and may cause problems for the grid.

Government Europa speaks to Lord Redesdale, CEO of the Energy Managers Association, about the Road to Zero Strategy and the expansion of green infrastructure to support the plans in place. Lord Redesdale discusses the importance of using renewable energy to power such cars, explaining how we need to rethink the way we produce and store energy to power such a large fleet.

Road to Zero: is it achievable?

Lord Redesdale expresses the complexity of the challenges the UK is faced with if it is to achieve its targets; despite this, it is clear that he is positive that with the correct management and electric vehicle infrastructure it could – in theory – happen. He explains: “With the targets that we see for 2030, we could be talking about an additional 6-10 million cars, that is a lot. It is possible. However, there are going to be issues with car companies ramping up their production, bottlenecks on batteries and then making sure the infrastructure is in place.

“To render the number of vehicles to meet the 2030 target we are going to have to generate enough power equivalent to running around 10 million homes. We do have quite a lot of power on the grid which we could move around, but we are going to have to create the electric vehicle infrastructure – not only to charge the cars but also to ensure that we do not break the grid. It is important to keep in mind however, 2030 is only 11 years away and so when we talk about whether it is achievable or not, we have a short time slot for building solutions.”

Range anxiety: ensuring there is enough electric vehicle infrastructure in place to reduce queues for charging points

Diesel and petrol cars take minutes to fill up, whereas electric vehicles take on average half an hour to charge. With the industry worries over range anxiety, GEQ queried with Lord Redesdale how imperative it is that there is sufficient charging electric vehicle infrastructure in areas such as service stations, to ensure people are not queuing for up to half an hour to charge their vehicle during a long journey. He clarified that: “Fast charging means that you could probably recharge in around 8-30 minutes, so the government has already put through legislation talking about fast charge points at service stations.

“The question is, once you start getting to scale, how many charge points will you need at the service station? Then we have to consider that there may be queues. We also have to evaluate the fact that fast charge uses a lot of power very quickly, so we do have to think about whether we have the power to do all of this in the first place.”

The UK will need to improve electric vehicle infrastructure and energy storage

The whole basis of switching to electric vehicles is to green the fleet and move to a more environmentally friendly way of living. With this in mind, it is crucial that electric vehicles are being powered with clean energy, so as not to be counter-productive. Lord Redesdale shines the light on the subject saying: “I think that in order to reach the targets already set out by the government, we will probably have to build a lot more wind farms than we have in the pipeline for 2030. It will be interesting to see how we manage our power; we produce a lot more power at night than we use. If we are being smart, we can actually create smart charging infrastructures to use up excess electricity for vehicle fleets.

“This does mean that in order to keep running the grids, we wouldn’t be able to allow people to charge their vehicles during peak periods, which of course is an issue. The grids are actually looking at resettable fuses in electric vehicle infrastructure, so if there is too much power being taken off the grid, they could just fuse the charging points.”

Lord Redesdale continues: “If you look at Road to Zero, there is no substance to the claim that there will be enough electricity to meet demand. There is no indication where that is coming from and we have not got the power stations being built at the moment to meet this demand.”

Reviewing the way people travel around Europe is crucial

Lord Redesdale explains the other issues that we have in regard to the roads, discussing how the UK’s roads are already over congested and the fact that perhaps we should be looking more at how we travel around the country, rather than rolling out more electric vehicle infrastructure. He argues: “Over the last five years, the number of people attaining a driver’s licence has gone down by a quarter, if you live in a town and are a young person, it is often financially out of your reach to own a car.

“Whilst the policy is written around the idea that everyone is going to own a car and everyone is going to need an electric vehicle, 87% of people live in an urban area. The argument will be; instead of creating a massive fleet of electric vehicles, spend it on public transport and making interconnections better on that front.”

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