With the number of electric cars on the roads in the UK rapidly increasing, energy regulator Ofgem has suggested ways that the electricity network could be managed to deal with this extra demand.

If plug-in car drivers routinely charge their cars after work, during peak hours (4-6pm), the extra demand would require energy networks to be upgraded. These upgrades would ultimately be paid for through consumers’ energy bills.

Ofgem said: “If electric vehicle users choose to charge during peak times, under current arrangements they will impose considerable costs, which will be borne by all consumers”. The energy regulator added that consumers who haven’t yet made the switch to electric vehicles (EVs) are unlikely to be happy about the additional cost.

Ofgem has put forward the use of smart charging as a solution to this issue. This would mean that EV owners would be able to plug in whenever was convenient for them, but charging would only start at off-peak times, such as midnight. Cheaper energy tariffs could be introduced for those who charge at certain times. Failure to charge during low demand times could also be financially penalised.

Ofgem said: “Consumers should be rewarded for being flexible with their demand but may pay a premium if their behaviour adds to peak demand”.

For this strategy to work, owners of EVs would need smart meters fitted in their homes.

Ofgem said that the introduction of smart charging would mean that 60% more EVs could use the existing energy network before it would need to be upgraded. A new law is already in place that requires new electric charge points to be capable of smart charging.

Jonathan Brearley, Ofgem’s executive director, systems and networks, said: “Ofgem is working with the government to support the electric vehicle revolution in Britain, which can bring big benefits to consumers. Our reforms will help more users charge their electric vehicles and save them money.”

See Ofgem’s report here.

Image: Nissan

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