Could Electric Vehicles Drain the UK’s Power Supply?

For the first time ever there are now more than 1 million electric vehicles (EVs) on the world’s roads. Worldwide sales of electric vehicles were up 57 per cent, despite low oil prices.  Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) forecast that electric vehicles will account for 35 per cent of new car sales by 2040. This is great news for drivers as the cost of driving is reducing.

The likes of Tesla, BMW, Audi, VW, Mitsubishi and Nissan are all major manufactures with electric vehicle models and are significantly investing in both battery and vehicle research. The UK government is fuelling the uptake by providing funding for electric vehicle purchasing and domestic EV charging in order to achieve their target of EVs contributing 10 percent towards all vehicles sold by 2020.

With all this great and unquestionably essential investment we have to ask…

Can the National Grid meet electricity demands for this driving trend?

The national grid is already showing signs it is struggling to meet current UK demands with the national grid itself stating, “No one knows for sure how motorists will use electric vehicles in the future, but the implications for the UK’s electricity infrastructure could be enormous.” With EV sales increasing, will this put a strain on the grid? Could this put EV drivers at risk of returning to their car and it’s not charged due to an outage? At this stage it is unlikely but all EV owners should be aware that this could happen in the future.

So what’s the answer?

Driving on solar power

A ‘traditional’ fossil fuel vehicle achieving 40mpg currently costs a fuel price of 12.3p per mile (assuming £1.10 [US$1.34] per liter). This is over 6x more expensive than running off solar electricity which costs only 2p per mile.

Annually in the UK we spend €24.51 billion (US$26.7 billion) on importing oil for petrol and diesel. This would pay for a lot of solar/storage capacity which would mean we’d never need to import oil at anywhere near those levels ever again. That’s £20 billion (US$24 billion), which would stay in the consumers’ pockets. The boost to the economy each year would be enormous.

Businesses and homeowners are taking control of their power supply by generating their own fuel from the roofs of their homes and offices. By installing commercial solar panels or residential solar panels people across the UK are able to generate their own renewable energy.

Using two examples of electric and hybrid vehicles available on the market, the Tesla Model S and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, we compare the cost of driving on charge from the grid to driving on solar fuel, charging times and range based on manufacturers data:

Tesla Model S P85D-100 percent electric

  • Battery Capacity: 85kWh
  • Charge time: 4.25hrs @ 22kW
  • Range: 242 miles
  • Cost per mile charging from the grid @ 12p/kWh: 4.6p per mile
  • Cost per mile charging from Solar @ 5p/kWh: 1.9p per mile

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV-Hybrid petrol+electric

  • Battery Capacity: 10kWh
  • Charge time: 3.5hrs @ 3.68kW
  • Range: 32 miles
  • Cost per mile charging from the grid @ 12p/kWh: 4.8p per mile
  • Cost per mile charging from Solar @ 5p/kWh: 2p per mile

Charging an EV with solar energy is less than half the price of charging from the grid.

If you do not have the facility to mount solar on your roof, then solar carports offer an excellent alternative.  These offer direct access to your own self-generated solar electricity as well as protection and storage capabilities.

Vehicle-To-Grid (V2G) Scheme

Nissan is currently running a UK V2G trial with some of its Leaf drivers. V2G technology allows electric vehicles owners to sell any unused battery stored energy back to the grid at peak times for a profit.

18,000 electric Nissan LEAFs are running on the roads in the UK. If all of those were connected, they would have a capacity of 180MW of energy — which is the equivalent to two power plants. In the future, if all vehicles on the road in the UK were electric and were connected, we would make a virtual power plant of 370GW. That’s enough power to cover the UK, Germany, and France.

Could this be the answer to our power shortages?

Whether the national grid will be able to supply the UK with its demand for electricity is yet to be seen. All we can say is that EV owners can take control of their own electricity requirements by either selling energy back to the grid or better still, generate their own energy with solar PV and then sell any unused energy back to the grid at a premium rate.

Watch this space EV drivers, you’ve got the power in your hands.

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Ben Harrison heads up Mypower, a professional solar company advising upon, designing and installing high quality Solar PV systems. My power is a professional solar company advising, designing and installing high quality Solar PV systems. For more information on business solar panels click here . Ben is a qualified chartered surveyor and has been with Mypower since 2011. He is highly passionate about the renewable energy industry particularly solar and electric vehicles as well as government policies on energy.

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