With electric-vehicle sales steadily growing, moves are afoot in the U.K. to offset fears that power-grid systems will struggle to manage high EV-charging demand.


Electric Nation, a project funded by Western Power Distribution and the Network Innovation Allowance, is testing a smart-charging solution to the potential challenge of clusters of EVs charging at peak times on local electricity networks.


The Electric Nation project is recruiting new EV owners and providing free smart chargers so it can learn from the data and the feedback generated by trial participants. The trial is taking place in the WPD network areas in the Midlands, South West and South Wales regions. It is seeking to recruit 500-700 people buying or leasing all makes and models of new EVs, all-electric and plug-in hybrids, to take part in the largest trial of its kind.


An EV can more than double the demand on the local electricity network from a home when charging at peak times. If many homes in a local area adopt EVs, and they all charge at peak times, then this will have a significant impact on the local electricity network.


The costs of reinforcing such local networks, including replacing cables, overhead lines or substation equipment, has been estimated to be at least £2.2 billion ($2.8 billion) by 2050. Yet, EV experts expect these costs can be avoided by the widespread adoption of smart chargers, which can employ managed charging at peak times.


“While the U.K. electricity system has plenty of capacity to deliver energy to EVs currently and for the foreseeable future, smart charging can play an important role in ensuring electricity network upgrades are kept to a minimum as the numbers of EVs being charged at home increase,” says Mark Dale, innovation and low-carbon-networks engineer at WPD.


“We believe that with the correct management of charging, the electricity network has the capacity to integrate the predicted uptake of EVs. Smart charging can allow management of the demand on the local electricity network and can help to avoid or defer work to upgrade infrastructure.”


 “We are now at a tipping point with the transition to electric vehicles,” says Dave Roberts, smart interventions director-EA Technology. “This is great news for motorists, and the environment, as EVs play a key role in helping to improve local air quality.


“Smart charging will allow increased uptake of EVs on U.K. roads and will save money, for the industry and therefore customers, on reinforcing local electricity networks.”