Last month, the government announced its consultation on bringing forward the ban of sales of new petrol and diesel cars to 2035, as well as including hybrids for the first time.
Current± caught up with OVO’ Energy’s director of electric vehicles (EVs) Tom Pakenham to discuss the impact this will have on the industry, the importance of smart charging technologies and what more needs to be done ahead of 2035.
What impact will an earlier ban have on the electric vehicle industry, as well as the inclusion of hybrids?
Automotive OEMs have seen the trend to electric coming for some time, and as a result many have built adaptable car platforms that can be used for ICE as well as electric and PHEV. The 15 years to 2035 represent 1-2 vehicle development cycles, so the earlier ban should inspire companies to prioritise the move to electric and ensure that this prioritisation commences in earnest immediately.
OVO welcomes the inclusion of hybrids in the ban, as it is only through driving pure electric vehicles that we’ll fully decarbonise road transport and allow the UK to meet its 2050 net zero target. A big impact of this inclusion will be the extra pressure on charging infrastructure, particularly for customers without the ability to install and use a home chargepoint. The amount of energy going into EVs from the grid will also be higher if only pure EVs can be sold, and the grid will need to be prepared. This is where domestic flexibility will play a much needed role.
What do you think the effect on the grid will be, and what actions/technologies can we deploy to help mitigate this?
There needn’t be any negative impacts on the grid if the additional load from EVs is managed correctly. Smart charging has the potential to not only avoid issues on the grid at peak times, but even to reduce the cost to the electricity system of integrating renewable energy generation. Platforms like Kaluza that intelligently manage domestic load according to signals from the grid will be instrumental in delivering effective smart charging.
V2G will also have a vital role to play between now and 2035, and beyond. It will transform cars into energy storage devices, in addition to turn-down services. Just 270k vehicles plugged into V2G chargers could provide the same power output as one of the new Hinkley Point C reactors for more than 5 hours.
Research by Imperial and OVO found that smart charging and V2G combined could save a zero-carbon energy system £3.5bn per year. Without smart charging, local electricity grids would have to upgrade their hardware with huge Capex costs, renewable generation would be less efficient due to increased curtailment and we would have to build excessive nuclear and CCUS infrastructure.
Is the public attitude in the right place to accept an earlier shift?
2019 saw an incredible shift in public attitude to accept the seriousness of the climate crisis. There’s more that needs to be done in debunking the preconceptions around EVs, including range anxiety and grid outages, and instead showcasing the many benefits they bring. Buying EVs is an important step that consumers will have to take to decarbonise their lives. The ability of companies to work closely with customers to support them in this transition will be a deciding factor in the success of the earlier ICE ban.
What are the main barriers to achieving an earlier date, be it 2035 or earlier?
The main barriers will be the production and supply of vehicles into the UK market, followed by the shift in habits required to move away from public refuelling to at-home/on-street charging. The grid infrastructure challenge is large but can be managed with the right technology. Supply of vehicles will require the vision and commitment of traditional car manufacturers that haven’t had to change this fast in their lifetimes.
What action is required from government and private companies to ensure the transition to EVs in line with a 2035 ban is successful?
Government will be instrumental in supporting this rapid transition through grants to private companies and incentives to consumers. Non-financial incentives such as free parking for EVs have proved effective elsewhere in the world, and should be explored & adopted as soon as possible to drive the EV transition.
The Plug-in-Car grant and the OLEV Home Charging grant have been successful in accelerating the uptake of EVs and will enable customers to support decarbonisation by making smart technologies the cheaper, easier choice. However, OLEV’s recent decision to cut the smart charging grant will have the opposite effect. By reducing the grant from £500 to £350 per installation risks locking EV drivers out of the inherent rewards of the energy transition and instead pushes them towards infrastructure that will lead to a costlier energy system. Additional recent changes have also seriously undermined the ability for all charging to be smart, preventing customers and the grid from benefiting from the cost and carbon savings smart charging provides.
More work is needed by the government and regulators to help create the right markets that incentivise companies to help EVs charge smartly. The recent TCR ‘minded to’ decision has severely damaged the business case for flexible EV charging, with possible repercussions later on in the decade when this technology is essential for smooth functioning of the grid.