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Thousands of electric vehicles coming to UK roads to test how energy grid copes

Electric vehicle trial (Niall Carson/PA)
Electric vehicle trial (Niall Carson/PA)

Up to 3,000 electric cars are being deployed on to UK roads in a bid to understand what the increased demand in electric power will mean for the country’s energy grid.

Regulator Ofgem has approved the three-year project led by a group of companies including British Gas-owner Centrica and Uber, which aims to assess the impact on cables and substations that deliver the UK’s electricity, as the number of electric vehicles on the road gradually rises.

There are more than 150,000 ultra-low-emission vehicles in the UK and around 14,000 public charge points, but it remains unclear whether utility companies will be able to withstand the impact, in particular during peak charging times, such as overnight when owners come home from work.

The trial, said to be the world’s largest commercial electric vehicle project, will collect data on the amount of energy consumed and charging times, as well as the distance travelled and the cost, which will be shared openly with other companies.

Test vehicles will hit the road in the second half of 2019, covering a range of urban, suburban and rural areas across the South East, south central and East of England.

Uber is one of the partners on the project (Laura Dale/PA)

“We are delighted to be part of this important trial, helping to accelerate the roll-out of e-mobility as part of the transition to a future that is cleaner and more connected than ever,” said Jonathan Tudor, director of technology strategy and innovation for Centrica.

“As a leading energy and services company, and operator of a growing fleet of electric vehicles, we know how important it is to find solutions to charging that are both affordable to the customer and manageable from a system perspective.”

Japanese manufacturer Hitachi, electricity distributor UK Power Networks and Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks are also part of the collaboration.