Brexit won’t stop the rise of EVs

Rumours suggest that automotive manufacturer may be cancelling UK investment plans following the EU membership referendum result, but don’t believe that this will slow the rise of electrical vehicles says Gill Nowell.

Brexit won’t stop the rise of EVs
[image_library_tag e0d1834f-f978-4d5c-93e8-00c50ff584ca 200×200 alt=” ill owell seionr consultant smart interventions echnology” width=”200″ ]Gill Nowell, seionr consultant smart interventions, EA Technology

 As a natural optimist, and of a generally sunny disposition (unlike the weather at time of writing) I strive to find the good in every situation. No matter my own personal views on our good Nation bidding adieu to the European Union, I am personally determined to make the best of each day, and to continue to do my utmost for my children’s future health and happiness.

 Which brings me on to the topic of electric vehicles. There’s a tenuous link there somewhere, probably to do with my son’s love of Lego and cars, plus the fact that at six years of age, he knows that there are petrol cars, there are diesel cars, but we like electric cars the best. 

So for the last few days I have been pondering upon the future of electric vehicles or EVs. I’ll include all plug-in vehicles, including hybrids, in that term.

The company for which I work, EA Technology has traditionally focused on engineering solutions to support GB’s ageing electricity networks. But in the last four years we have ventured into the world of EVs. More specifically, we have made it our business to understand, through the pioneering My Electric Avenue project, the impact of EVs on local electricity networks, trial a technical demand control solution and assess customer acceptance.

For those of you who are curious to know the outcomes of My Electric Avenue, we learned a number of critical things that are relevant not only to those responsible for the distribution of our electricity, but which are also directly relevant to automotive manufacturers, the charging point supply chain, customers, and the direction of UK Government policy. The headline results are that across Britain 32% of low voltage (LV) feeders (312,000 circuits) will require intervention when 40%–70% of customers have EVs, based on 3.5 kW (16 amp) charging. Intervention using smart technology, rather than digging up the roads to install new cables, has been predicted to give an economic saving of around £2.2 billion by 2050. Let me leave you pondering that £2.2 billion figure in your head, while you read on…

I have had the great fortune to immerse myself not only in the My Electric Avenue project, but to be instrumental in devising and now project managing its successor project, ‘Smart EV’.

Smart EV is developing the material to inform a standard, or mechanism, to facilitate controlled EV charging on our local electricity networks. It is likely that the roll out of this mechanism will support increased numbers of EVs that can charge without large scale network reinforcement, in the most cost efficient and expedient fashion. The roll out needs consideration; specifically, compatible charging points are required in advance of the predicted increase in EV numbers.

Through the Smart EV project we are working across the automotive, utility, charging point supply chain and customer sectors to thoroughly engage and consult with stakeholders on what a standardised method of controlling EV charging should look like. Ultimately, we want to make sure that the need to dig up roads to lay more cables and reinforce our existing electricity networks, is avoided. And if we can achieve that, it could mean avoiding costs to customers of that not insignificant figure of £2.2 billion.

So, I bring my thinking back around to our imminent-ish departure from the European Union. I think about the daily stories of the plummeting pound and billions lost to the British economy since last Friday, 24 June 2016. I think of the conversation that I had yesterday with a leading expert in the EV field, and of the tale he recounted of hearing first hand from one automotive OEM that it has pulled out of any future foreseeable investment in the UK; it has cancelled almost done deals, precipitating the loss of many jobs. All as an irrefutably direct impact of the Brexit. How I dislike that word. 

But let’s search for the positive in all this. Regardless of the Brexit situation, our legally binding carbon targets are globally binding – they aren’t European ones. The commitments made in Paris remain firm.  We still need to convert to non-gasoline by 2050, with a target of no new gasoline cars by 2040. And, the price of our oil will go up as the pound weakens against the dollar, which although unpalatable in some respects, may just prove to be more of an incentive to tip customers from petrol/diesel to electric.

My prediction, therefore, is that the rise of EVs will continue apace. And with that rise, which has been exponential in recent years (a 716% increase in new EV registrations in just two years from 2013 – 2015), there is the absolute need for our electricity networks to be managed in such a way that they can cope with the additional demand that growing numbers and clusters of EVs will place upon them. Real progress is being made through the Smart EV project, and also through the EA Technology and Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership-founded EV Network Group, under whose mantle key stakeholders are now meeting to understand the impact of EVs on our networks, all in the spirit of recognising that the automotive and utility sectors need to collaborate, communicate and come together to address challenges and present solutions.

My hope is that through the EV Network Group, Smart EV and other related projects, we will secure the UK’s position as a leading light in a low carbon, zero emission vehicle world. And that leaves me feeling optimistic that I can continue to play my part and do my bit for a bright and healthy future.



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