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BRUSSELS OFFICE : +32 (0)2 895 5909

© Håkan Dahlström

Electric: the new ethos

07/09/17Government

Pan European Networks explores the electric vehicle market and the anxieties which have surrounded range capacity and the current infrastructure to combat such.

Under plans to tackle pollution, the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the UK will be eradicated by 2040, resulting in a rise in the amount of hybrid and electric vehicles (EV) which are on roads. Range anxiety – the fear that electric vehicles won’t have enough stored power to provide daily driving – is something which has been detrimental to the progression of the electric vehicle market. There is widespread concern and anxiety surrounding the range of electric vehicles, despite there being in excess of 4,500 charging locations across the UK. A study from MIT proposes that the fear is irrational and that a large percentage of drivers could switch to a low-cost EV without the need to modify commuting or driving patterns.

The range variation between electric vehicles is significant, whereby some can travel for as little as 50 miles whilst others can travel for more than 200 miles between re-charge sessions. As a result, long distance journeys are the ones which seem to be the most affected, whereas electric vehicles may offer a more viable alternative in commuting and city driving.

A range of anxieties

On long journeys drivers are required to plan ahead, whilst electric vehicles have the technological capabilities to factor in and alert charging points to the driver which appear along the route to the destination. Tom Callow from Chargemaster – the UK’s largest provider of electric vehicle charging infrastructures – told the BBC that drivers rarely run out of charge mid-drive, and added: “The reality is that once you start driving an electric car it is a different kind of culture. You are not filling up, you are topping up and you drive differently and top up when available.”

However, the fears do not lie just with drivers. The National Grid has raised concerns – released through ‘Our energy insights. Forecourt thoughts: Mass fast charging of electric vehicles’ – around the demand for peak power, however added that it will be able to cope. The ‘People power: How consumer choice is changing the UK energy system’ 2017 report from Green Alliance suggested that as few as six simultaneously charging vehicles which are positioned in a close proximity could cause localised power shortages. One way around this is smart charging – an intelligent way for vehicles to draw electricity from the grid, subsequently preventing increases and dips of power.

As a result of developing infrastructures to facilitate the re-charging of electric vehicle batteries, the financial cost for generating energy for power plants, grid networks and installation costs is expected to be detrimental. A phasing out of nuclear reactors and coal-fired plants leading up to 2025 is already expected to place pressure on power supply. In efforts to combat the anticipated local network power shortages, it is being advised that drivers make a conscious effort to charge overnight – when spare power is abundant – whereby the infrastructure costs can be kept at a minimum.

Innovating the infrastructure

An increasing demand for electric vehicle charging points has materialised into an agreement between ChargePoint Services and Motor Fuel Group (MFG) – operating under BP, Shell, Texaco, JET and Murco fuel brands – to enforce a UK nationwide roll-out of charging facilities on forecourts. The points will join ChargePoint Services’ existing GeniePoint Network which spans Falmouth to Carlisle; virtually the length of England. As reported through ChargePoint Services, managing director Alex Bamberg, said: “Electric vehicle charging is now a critical public service, and we are on target to provide the most reliable, widespread rapid charging facilities across the UK for drivers of electric vehicles”.

However, inter-city charging has also received increasing demand. In August, Oxford City Council announced that it had partnered with Oxfordshire County Council in efforts to develop a scheme for implementing charging stations onto residential streets. In a trial which will span 12 months, the scheme will test six different charging technologies, including the retrofitting of charging hardware to lampposts. The installation of 30 stations will provide ten for public access, ten for individual households, and a further ten designated to members of the Co-wheels Car Club – a national car club which provides drivers with low emission hybrid and electric cars on a pay-as-you-go platform.

In Europe

Meanwhile in Belgium and Germany EV drivers are relieved of range anxieties owing to the variety of charging options in rural locations powered by second-life batteries sourced from Renault electric vehicles. Connected Energy and Groupe Renault have facilitated the installation of two quick-charge stations located along highways and are based upon E-STOR energy storage technology. As reported in the Renault media centre, the head of the Electric Vehicle Batteries and Charging Infrastructures Programme, Nicolas Schottey said: “Groupe Renault is supporting the development of charging infrastructures to simplify the daily life of electric vehicle drivers. Using our second-life batteries in fast EV charger contributes to progress by providing charging station operators with economical solutions. Moreover, it is a perfect example of circular economy implementation”.

However, in efforts to address the issue of range directly, German supplier Bosch has announced that their new technology – E-axle – aims to target incremental efficiency through integrating three components into a single unit which will simultaneously save weight, space and cost through a motor, power electronics and transmission. The power-provider will be robust and versatile enough to be implemented into EVs, hybrids, compact cars, SUVs and trucks with a reduced weight. Bosch added that the system provides better acceleration and is able to maintain speeds for a longer period of time than other competitor technologies, and therefore improves motor and power electronics whilst extending the vehicle range per charge.

 

This article will appear in Pan European Networks: Government 23, which will be published in October.

Pan European Networks Ltd