Charging infrastructure for a new decade

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Opinion

Philip Valarino, EV lead at EDF, explores how Vehicle to Grid chargers (V2G) and on-street charging could help meet the increasing demand for EV charging infrastructure in the UK.

Demand for electric vehicles (EVs) is steadily rising, with the number of electric cars increasing by 900% between 2014 and 2018 and the government pledging that, by 2030, at least 50%of new cars and 40% of new vans in the UK will be electric. This surge in demand means that it is more important than ever to deliver the charging infrastructure required to support this change.

While the debate around charging solutions rages on across the industry, at EDF we believe that Vehicle to Grid chargers (V2G) and on-street charging have enormous potential to propel the UK towards wider EV adoption.

V2G technology makes it possible for EV batteries to store energy and release it back to the grid when there is high demand for electricity during peak times – say between 4pm and 7pm in winter months. Not only is this a responsible way of interacting with energy, unlocking benefits for the wider business community, but this type of charger also provides businesses with the opportunity to generate revenue from their fleet by selling their unused energy back to the grid. It is both economical and ethical in equal measure.

At present, V2G is very much in the early stages, however we believe that it will play an increasingly larger role as the vehicles develop, essentially evolving to become a sustainable battery on wheels.

On-street charging also has enormous potential to contribute to our EV infrastructure needs. Many vehicles across the country are parked on the street overnight, meaning that they are not able to install their own personal chargers. To support the immense growth in EVs, chargers must become better adapted to the ways in which people live. To ensure that this is affordable and practical, we need to utilise existing structures, such as lampposts and bollards. By integrating chargers with these established features of British streets, on-street parking chargers will have a minimal impact on how areas look, whilst having a huge impact on the move towards a low carbon future.  

This type of charger is especially important to address the persistent ‘range-anxiety’ found amongst individual consumers and businesses alike. Understandably, people do not want to be caught out with low charge in a location with no access to a charging point. This leads to a reluctance to switch to EVs – an unfortunate speed bump on the road to low carbon.

With more on-street parking chargers in an increased number of locations, businesses and consumers can have the confidence to switch to EVs, knowing that a charging point is never too far away. However, it is important to note that part of the problem with ‘range-anxiety’ comes from a lack of understanding of the availability of EV chargers and their benefits. It is therefore vital that we not only provide the infrastructure necessary to allay any consumer fears, but also communicate this effectively to the public.

If we are to see the EV trend continue to rise, there must be a large investment in public EV chargers across the UK. It is estimated that 44 million electric cars will be on the road by 2030 and these need to be supported by a wide range of charging solutions.

Our overall vision is to be an efficient, responsible energy company that champions low-carbon growth. We strive to work with businesses and consumers alike towards a low carbon future and believe that investment in and discussion around charging infrastructure is imperative if we are to make this a reality. While the fact that more businesses and consumers are making the switch to EVs is a huge positive, we must ensure that charging infrastructure does not hold us back. Removing this hurdle to progress should be an industry priority as we enter a new decade.