Quantcast
Energy
Martin Pickard / Getty Images

Rapid Rise of UK Electric Vehicles Sees National Grid Double Its 2040 Forecast

By Simon Evans

There could be as many as 36m electric vehicles (EVs) on UK roads by 2040, double the number expected just a year ago.


That's according to the latest National Grid Future Energy Scenarios, published today. Yet despite raising electricity demand, National Grid now said the rapid rise of EVs will help the UK shift towards more renewable and low-carbon electricity generation.

Smart charging and vehicle-to-grid technology means EVs will be able to help smooth electricity usage through the hours of the day, National Grid said. They will be able to charge mainly when demand is low and even feed back into the grid when demand is high.

"Growth in EVs supports the continued trend towards more low-carbon generation," said National Grid. "[They] will be able to support the continued growth in renewables by storing excess generation and releasing it back onto the network when it is needed."

Future Energy Scenarios

Each year, National Grid publishes a set of four scenarios for the UK's future energy supply and demand built around the company's own modelng and consultation with the energy community. The scenarios help the company plan for an uncertain—but rapidly changing—energy system.

Fintan Slye, director, UK system operator at National Grid wrote in a foreword:

"It's impossible to accurately forecast a single energy future over the long term. However, creating a range of credible futures allows us to continue supporting the development of an energy system that's robust against different outcomes."

This year's scenarios include a stronger focus on the UK's transition to low-carbon. "We've refreshed our scenario framework to reflect the increasing importance of decentralization and decarbonization in our industry," Slye wrote.

Nevertheless, only two of the four scenarios meet the UK's legally binding greenhouse gas emissions target for 2050—an 80 percent cut on 1990 levels. This target is likely to be raised in response to the 2015 Paris agreement. These points form important context for National Grid's conclusions.

In previous years, only one of the four scenarios met the UK's 2050 target.

Twice as Many EVs

One of the most striking changes in this year's scenarios is the much more rapid adoption of EVs. This can be seen in the chart, below, which compares scenarios that meet the 2050 target and were published in each year between 2013 and 2018.

Above: Number of EVs on UK roads in National Grid scenarios published between 2013 and 2018. Source: "Gone Green" or "Two Degrees" Future Energy Scenarios 2013-2018. Chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts

Between 2013 and 2015, National Grid consistently said there would be around 5m EVs on UK roads by 2035. It raised that 2035 outlook to 8m in its 2016 work, rising to 10m in 2040, as Carbon Brief reported at the time. The outlook grew again last year to 13m in 2035 and 17m in 2040.

This year, National Grid said there could be up to 25m EVs by 2035 and 36m by 2040, effectively doubling its outlook from last year. The figures represent a tripling compared to 2016's figures and a five-fold increase from the 2015 numbers. By 2040, National Grid now said EVs will reach saturation point, with all possible vehicles electrified and new EVs replacing old ones as they retire.

A June 2018 brief on transport modeling said:

"We have been working hard to develop a much more holistic road transport model that takes into account the whole cost of ownership of vehicles. Our new model is much more granular in its detail and consequently it is more robust than previous ones."

The increase in outlook also reflects the government's somewhat weakened pledge to ban conventional petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

Charging Habits

The same June brief explains how National Grid has been working to understand the way that people will use and charge EVs. The electrification of transport—and, potentially, also heat—is set to raise UK demand for electricity, meaning more generating capacity will need to be built.

Last year, National Grid's earlier work on the impact of this new electricity demand was widely misreported as showing that the transition to EVs would be unmanageable. Since then, it has been working to expand its evidence base and to more realistically explore the impact of EVs.

The brief explained:

"We have been gathering large amounts of evidence to help us formulate views on some of the more uncertain variables associated with vehicle use and charging preferences. The 'how and what' type of chargers that people use is all being considered.

"We anticipate that most consumers will avoid peak time charging although some may still choose to do so. Vehicle to Grid technology is also a new input into our model … In our scenarios, we show that this is going to have significant impacts on the energy landscape of the future."

Combining these new insights on deeper EV penetration, smarter charging and vehicle-to-grid, National Grid now says peak electricity demand could be increased by between 3-8 gigawatts (GW in 2030 (4-14 percent) and by 3-13GW in 2050 (6-22 percent). This is shown in the chart, below.

Above: Net increase in peak UK electricity demand due to electric vehicles, in four different scenarios. Note that only "Community Renewables" and "Two Degrees" meet the UK's current climate goal for 2050. V2G is vehicle-to-grid. Source: National Grid Future Energy Scenarios 2018

These ranges can be compared to last year's future energy scenarios, which saw 2050 peak demand increasing by at least 6GW and as much as 30GW as a result of EVs. The top end of this range assumed that all charging was "dumb," taking place during peaks. National Grid now thinks the majority of chargers will be "smart," enabling most consumers to shift demand off-peak.

Note that the largest increases in 2050 peak demand are in scenarios that do not meet the 2050 carbon target ("Steady Progression" and "Consumer Evolution"). The target-compliant scenarios ("Community Renewables" and "Two Degrees") see earlier increases in peak demand, due to more rapid uptake of EVs, but also faster adoption of vehicle-to-grid technology.

The main difference between the two target-compliant scenarios is what National Grid calls "engagement." This reflects whether consumers choose to charge their EVs during peak demand or whether lower tariff prices encourage them to charge during periods of low demand.

(More broadly, the shift to EVs will reduce energy demand, as they are more efficient than combustion-engine vehicles. An interactive tool developed by the Carbon Tracker Initiative shows how much EV adoption will cut into global oil demand.)

Balancing the Grid

This year's report says the use of smart chargers and vehicle-to-grid technology means EVs can "supports the continued trend towards more low-carbon generation" by smoothing supply and demand.

Smart charging shifts "engaged" consumers to use off-peak electricity for their EVs (shown in the orange areas of the chart, below). Vehicle-to-grid technology charges EVs using off-peak electricity then feeds it back into the grid at times of peak demand (red areas).

Above: EV charging impact on UK electricity demand through the hours of each day. Blue: Non-transport demand. Purple: EV charging by "unengaged" consumers, adding to peak demand. Orange: Off-peak EV charging by "engaged" consumers. Red: Vehicle-to-grid technology that shifts demand from peak to off-peak periods. Source: National Grid Future Energy Scenarios 2018

National Grid said a range of commercial developments support its updated views on EV charging behavior: "A number of energy suppliers have launched EV specific tariffs that have a time of use element [pricing to encourage off-peak charging]."

There have also been innovations and trials in vehicle-to-grid technology, it added.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Carbon Brief.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Politics
Mike Pence at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, MD. Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0

Pence Family Gas Station Failures Cost Taxpayers More Than $20 Million

A failed gas station empire owned by the family of Vice President Mike Pence has left communities in his home state saddled with millions of dollars in ongoing cleanup costs, the AP reported this weekend.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Emilie Chen / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Against All Odds, Mountain Gorilla Numbers Are on the Rise

By Jason Bittel

The news coming out of East Africa's Virunga Mountains these days would have made the late (and legendary) conservationist Dian Fossey very happy. According to the most recent census, the mountain gorillas introduced to the world in Gorillas in the Mist, Fossey's book and the film about her work, have grown their ranks from 480 animals in 2010 to 604 as of June 2016. Add another couple hundred apes living in scattered habitats to the south, and their population as a whole totals more than 1,000. Believe it or not, this makes the mountain gorilla subspecies the only great apes known to be increasing in number.

Keep reading... Show less
Business
WeWork offers small businesses workspace in a collaborative community. Jonathan Wiggs / The Boston Globe via Getty Images

$20 Billion Startup WeWork Goes Vegetarian, Citing Environmental Concerns

Growing office-space startup WeWork is introducing a new flavor of corporate sustainability with its announcement Thursday that the entire company is going vegetarian, CNN Tech reported Friday.

The company of around 6,000 will no longer serve meat at events or reimburse employees for pork, red meat or poultry.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Greenpeace activists unfurled two large banners in the high bell tower of Kallio church in Helsinki, Finland on Monday. Greenpeace

'Warm Our Hearts Not Our Planet': Greenpeace Demands Climate Action From Trump and Putin

By Jessica Corbett

As U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin came together in Helsinki, Finland on Monday for a closely watched summit, Greenpeace activists partnered with a local parish to unfurl two massive banners on the Kallio church's bell tower to call on the leaders to "warm our hearts not our planet."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Many roofs were torn off when high winds from Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico. U.S. Air Force photo by A1C Nicholas Dutton

Hurricane Maria Aftermath: FEMA Admits to Deadly Mistakes in Puerto Rico

The Federal Emergency Management Agency was sorely unprepared to handle Hurricane Maria and the subsequent crisis in Puerto Rico, the agency admitted in an internal performance assessment memo released last week.

FEMA's after-action report details how the agency's warehouse on the island was nearly empty due to relief efforts from Hurricane Irma when Maria made landfall last September, with no cots or tarps and little food and water.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler speaks to staff at the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters on July 11 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

3 Ways Andrew Wheeler Can Help Restore the EPA’s Dignity and Mission

By Jeff Turrentine

Plenty has been written in the past week about Andrew Wheeler, who has taken over as interim U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator after Scott Pruitt's abrupt yet way overdue resignation. (Some of us were even writing about Wheeler months ago!)

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Health
Bob Berg / Getty Images

How Summer and Diet Damage Your DNA, and What You Can Do

By Adam Barsouk

Today, your body will accumulate quadrillions of new injuries in your DNA. The constant onslaught of many forms of damage, some of which permanently mutates your genes, could initiate cancer and prove fatal. Yet all is not doomed: The lives we lead determine how well our cells can handle this daily molecular erosion.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme / Maxime Aliaga

300+ Mammal Species Could Still Be Discovered, Scientists Say

By Sara Novak

You can't protect an animal that you don't know exists. Tapanuli orangutans, for example, are found only in the Tapanuli region of Sumatra; they were only identified as a species last year, when scientists found them to be genetically different from other Bornean and Sumatran orangutans. With just 800 left, this newly discovered species is the most critically endangered ape.

It's hard to believe that with only seven great ape species on the planet—Tapanuli, Sumatran and Bornean orangutans, eastern and western gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos—a species could have gone undiscovered until 2017. But, in fact, new research shows that many mammals still fly under the radar.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!