EV smart charging, the journey has begun.


Recently, the government have banned the sale of ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) cars from 2035, meaning that we will soon be witnessing growth of electric vehicle sales. This in turn will mean an upturn in deployment and usage in charging in both public spaces and on private driveways.

A robust secure solution will be needed to ensure that charge points can continue to operate should, for example, the operator go into liquidation.  Or when customers move home they may need to continue to use the charger with a different energy supplier.

The situation we have today is that several providers are innovating in this space but on their own proprietary platforms.  Whilst this is great now, we must think about what will happen in the future to avoid a situation where cars are abandoned and stranded with little or no functionality.

Using the smart metering infrastructure to control smart electric vehicle (or EV) charge points could be the answer.

The smart meter roll-out is happening now and by 2024 we should see smart meters in most homes and small businesses in Great Britain.  This system holds great potential and could provide huge benefits to the EV market and electricity system.

We will have a secure means of communicating data and commands to and from all these homes and businesses and our technology has the potential to be re-used in public spaces, such as on lamp posts in streets.

Using the smart metering system to send these commands will future proof the functionality in smart EV charge points. This means commands to control both the time and level of charging can be sent to the vehicle even after a customer changes supplier or if the company they bought the charger from goes out of business.

It is critical that energy suppliers and electricity networks can control the load at EV charge points.  The load from an EV charger is around 5x the load from a kettle and the demand on the network following the evening commute, coupled with the usual evening peak, has the potential to cause the local electricity network to become overloaded.  We have two options, put more copper into the ground, probably running into several billions of pounds or manage the timing and load of EV charger points.

Currently the average load on the electricity system at peak time is 60MW, whilst overnight it is 30MW. There is some capacity for growth in EV charging, but its important that it takes place at the right time. With time of use tariffs aligned to the smart charging start time, there is an opportunity to achieve great outcomes for both consumers and the electricity system.

When we consider all the energy that is delivered to a home, less than 20% of this arrives as electricity for personal usage. The rest is fossil fuel in the form of gas for heating which makes up around 50%, and fuel for private cars making up around 30%.  It is clear that we will need to build a lot more capacity, and that will be mostly in the form of renewables. Whilst we can predict when Generation will take place, we cannot control it. Because of this, we will need a system that is able to respond to these events and take advantage of capacity, particularly excess wind at night, to charge car batteries.

If you think about it, an EV is basically a large battery on wheels. These batteries hold huge potential for managing electricity supply. They could be used to store energy and release it into the home or the grid when needed, which gives the potential for EV drivers to either become more self-sufficient or to gain an income from their EV for discharging to the grid as and when required.  If we think back to the power outage of August 2019 when frequency on the grid dropped, disconnecting thousands of homes and businesses, the energy stored in electric vehicles could have had the potential to be discharged to counter balance this. The smart meter infrastructure provides a potential platform to enable this because we could use it to send secure commands to control the load at an EV charge point.

At scale, the data flowing through our network will be able to inform the development of the EV charging infrastructure. There will be potential for it to be used to detect new connections of EV charge points on the system and to monitor charging events. This information could be used to help companies and local authorities to build the right capacity in the right places.

Norway has seen a huge growth in EV charging and in the first month of 2020 almost 50% of new car sales were electric vehicles. However, a challenge they have faced is not enough public charging infrastructure to meet demand.  This has led to queue rage when consumers have been queueing for hours to use charge points.  Organisations need to share data on trends in the electric vehicle market both in terms of new sales and charge patterns to avoid this.

The smart meter infrastructure has the potential to solve both of these problems. Sharing data from the platform will facilitate the creation of infrastructure in the right place at the right time.  Queue rage could become a thing of the past as companies avoid building assets that quickly become obsolete.

Whilst we typically think of private cars when we think of EV, I think we will see biggest growth in the near future from small commercial vehicles. Amazon have recently placed the largest order for EVs ever and the Post Office is also electrifying its fleet.  When you think about the use case here, these vehicles are covering similar distances during the day and returning to base at night where they can charge their batteries.  We need to think through how the smart metering system can be re-used to secure grid stability when all these vehicles are connected at the end of the working day.

Britain has an ambitious carbon neutral target and EVs will play an important part in hitting it. Having a reliable and secure smart charging infrastructure is key to public uptake and the DCC are ready to make this happen, connecting Britain so we can all lead smarter, greener lives.