Can the national grid cope with EV’s?

The National Grid is the system which supplies gas and electricity to millions across the UK…

It works through an interconnected network of electricity production plants, where either fossil fuels are burned or renewable energy sources like solar, bio-energy, wind energy, nuclear or hydro-power are transferred into electricity.

This electricity then passes through a step-up transformer, increasing voltage and reducing current (which reduces heat and overall energy loss) it travels across the 4,481 miles of overhead power lines, or the 1,391 miles of underground electricity cables and is distributed by DNO’s (Distribution Network Operatives) to homes.

Currently, the main source of electricity is the burning of fossil fuels, whilst only a small proportion comes from renewable sources – not only is this highly damaging to the environment, producing carbon which erodes the o-zone layer, leading to global warming, but fossil fuels aren’t unlimited and are doomed to run out.

Petrol and Diesel cars also work with a similar process, but on a much smaller scale, the burning of these energy sources also releases carbon, and currently around 99% of all UK cars run on Petrol and Diesel, with less than 1% being pure electric.

However, this 1% (215,000 pure electric vehicles in the UK, Feb 2021), as measly as it seems, is a massive jump from just 10,000 pure electric cars in 2016 – a trajectory that is set to continue to rise considering the government plans to ban the sale and production of diesel and petrol cars by 2030.

Simultaneously, by 2030, the national grid is aiming to produce 90% of their electricity from zero-carbon sources, meaning that those owning electric cars will be contributing to a massively beneficial overhaul of traditional climate-endangering energy sources.

Now, as beneficial as this sounds, it is an ambitious target and will require massive government efforts to make sure that electric cars are both appealing in the market and environmentally sustainable.

By owning an electric car, most people will have to have a home charging port, or at least access to a publicly installed one to power their car. This determines a crash course where the government electric car aims and the national grid aims for carbon reduction threaten to put a massive strain on electricity supplies.

Currently renewable sources such as solar, wind, bio and hydro energy are less used than fossil fuels due to their inefficiency and small production of electricity comparatively. This means that there is a possibility of electricity demand overwhelming the renewable supply.

Thankfully, there may be an answer…

A mixed-energy approach is key in ensuring available energy in the masses required by an electric society; nuclear energy is one form of (almost) unlimited energy which produces no carbon emissions and is extremely efficient with regards to the amount of energy gained from a small amount of uranium.

The difficulty lies with the nuclear danger of storing and getting rid of uranium, and a lack of infrastructure with regards to nuclear plants in the UK. This, therefore, requires Government investment in the sector to make use of this extremely effective energy source and push technology so it can be carefully handled.

Other forms of energy should not be discounted. Wind, solar, bio and hydro are all purely renewable and unproblematic sources. However, the amount of energy they produce is very little compared to other forms. Therefore, a mixed approach could be the answer to ensuring that optimal efficiency is gained from all sources.

Government investment in education and energy technology is also essential to help push the effectiveness of these renewable energy sources and reduce energy loss in transferring electricity from power plants to homes.

Private and local government investment in energy forms like solar could also be an avenue for reducing strain on the national grid. Households could look to produce some of their own electricity from solar panels, however this would also depend on improving technology efficiency and the availability of technology for homeowners.

One thing we think will happen in the medium to long term, will be full circle green energy solutions for both business and homes. Which will include solar, battery storage, electric car chargers and even heat pump technology.

Organisations like the Green Shield Group already exist, who provide this full solution for large footprint business premises, installing all the technology for free, whilst saving the business 20%, and making their money by selling the excess green electricity back to the grid.

It’s only a matter of time, as technology advances and solar tiles become more affordable, that the same model will be adopted on some private homes.

Overall, though, it is safe to say that electric cars are the future – as reliance on fossil fuels and national pledges to act against climate change increase, the number of electric cars bought will continue its current trajectory of growth, while continued innovation in the field is sure to reap breakthroughs in battery technology, improving charging times.

This also means that you will see many more private, workplace and public charging points appear – something that I am sure you are already aware of.

It’s never been a better time to go green and invest in electricity, you don’t have to wait until 2030 to buy an electric car and charger, as there are plenty of great options now, to dispel the guilty conscience of contributing to climate change.

It is now up to the government to direct investment to the proper sections to ensure that we can save the planet and produce adequate electricity.

…but you can do your own part today by going car green!