The head of an electric-vehicle (EV) charging company has called for greater regulation on the types of chargers installed, following a report that claims EV drivers in the future may need to choose between using a kettle or recharging their vehicle, for fear of overloading the national electric network.
The white paper report, released by National Grid and entitled ‘Forecourt thoughts: Mass fast charging of electric vehicles’, says that if EV owners are to use an above-average charger – stated by National Grid at 11kW – they “could not use other high-demand electrical items such as kettles, ovens and immersion heaters without tripping the main fuse in a house”.
According to James O’Neil, UK director at charging company Ensto, smart chargers should be mandatory to ease the pressures on the national network. “There needs to be more regulation.
There are a lot of chargers around that aren’t smart at the moment,” he tells BusinessCar, adding that a smart charger’s power supply can be paused or downgraded when there is a risk of overloading the network.
While O’Neil didn’t reference the statement made by National Grid, he lambasts mainstream media reporting of the National Grid story when the report first emerged. “Lots of articles are agenda-driven or have been written by people who’ve never driven an EV before,”
Tom Callow, director of communication and strategy at EV infrastructure giant Chargemaster, agrees. He says the statement is misleading and has confused readers, including the mainstream media.
“The statement is made in the context of a single-phase electricity supply, but is specifically related to 11kW charging, which can only be facilitated by a higher-rated three-phase electricity supply,” Callow says. “Critically, National Grid made no mention of the requirement for a three-phase supply.”
He adds that Chargemaster has installed more than 30,000 home charging points, saying that EV drivers have not experienced the problems suggested by National Grid.
BusinessCar attempted to ask National Grid questions about the report, but was directed back to the white paper by a company representative and told a second paper is due to be released in September.
This is not the first time questions have been raised over the grid’s ability to cope with a large increase in the number of EVs on the road in the future.
In April, think tank Green Alliance claimed that the UK was unprepared for a surge in EV use, warning that unless a mass adoption of smart chargers took place, 700,000 electricity users could suffer regular blackouts by 2025. According to Green Alliance, reinforcement costs to the network could top £36 billion by 2050 if the uptake of EVs continues.
“The concept that you can’t boil a kettle while charging your car has utterly bewildered the thousands of EV drivers who do exactly that every day,” says James McKemey, head of customer operations at EV charging company Pod Point.
He adds that “less than 1%” of his customers have three-phase electricity supplies, because the upgrade work required was costly and time-consuming without too
McKemey backs O’Neil’s call for smart chargers to become more widely available, saying, “While you run the kettle, your charge point may throttle down to compensate for the three minutes it takes to boil. This will reduce your charge rate on a 7kW unit 20?30 miles of range an hour, depending on the size of your EV. This extends your time to fully charge by an utterly trivial one and a half minutes.”
Ian Cameron, head of innovation at UK Power Networks, tells BusinessCar the company is “introducing smart new solutions” to better manage demand in the future. “We are working closely with key stakeholders and major fleet operators to host events. And in all cases, it’s about being smarter about how we work with our customers and more actively manage the network in a dynamic way,” he says.
However, Shaun Barritt, CEO of Grosvenor Leasing, says the focus should be on solving possible power supply issues to publicly accessible charging stations. “I don’t believe resolving the domestic charging issue will be the main focus of the electric vehicle infrastructure companies,” he says. “After all, we don’t have petrol pumps at home, so why, suddenly, do we intend to charge our cars at home?”