U.K. research project studies impact of electric vehicles on grid

IBM is teaming up with the Energy Technologies Institute in the United Kingdom to figure out what sort of charging infrastructure will be required for the rollout of electric vehicles there.Other organizations involved in the study are EDF Energy, E.

IBM is teaming up with the Energy Technologies Institute in the United Kingdom to figure out what sort of charging infrastructure will be required for the rollout of electric vehicles there.

Other organizations involved in the study are EDF Energy, E.ON and Imperial Consultants. The study is being undertaken as the British government preps to plunk down more than 300 million British pounds to build out 11,000 charging stations across London, and the South East, Midlands and North East of England.

Here's a comment from IBM Global Business Services executive Jon Bentley, taken from the press release about the project:

"Electric vehicles have enormous potential for creating a cleaner transport system to help the U.K. meet its 2050 carbon reduction targets. However, there is uncertainty over the pace of vehicle development, consumer take up, and patterns of usage and charging. It is important that we anticipate the likely requirements these developments will have for grid enhancement and the need for an intelligent architecture."

The study is important because the government across the pond is actually providing grants of up to 5,000 British pounds to people buying "ultra-low carbon" vehicles. Eventually, the study could be tracking the impact of roughly 3,000 electric vehicles.

The specific focus of the IBM research is the following:

  • The impact that electric vehicle recharging will have on broad electricity distribution (will it mess up other consumption)
  • What smart infrastructure might be needed for ongoing monitoring of charging station usage patterns
  • Architecture designs for how to link charging stations to main distribution networks for seamless interconnectivity
  • Appropriate systems to handle billing and payment
  • Recommendations regarding potential legislation or regulations

Where should charging stations be sited? Which ones will be used most? How long will a charge-up take? How many charging "tanks" should be in a given location? Will my charging "plug" work everyplace or do I need to make it to a specific station? These are all variables that we need to understand sooner rather than later.

England is a much smaller country than the United States, of course, and the regulatory dynamics are very different. But at the very least, the design of the systems linking charging stations into the broader electric grid should be illustrative.

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