EV chargers: under (regulatory) pressure

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As covered in our previous blog, “What you need to know about the latest UK smart EV charger regulations”, there’s an incredible amount of scale up and growth needed within the smart charger industry in order to properly address the expected switch to the production of EV-only cars by 2030. In addition to the sheer increase in the number of chargers, there are also major concerns around the capacity of the energy networks within the UK to keep up with the demand.

Within the aforementioned blog, we broke down the details of regulatory changes that came into force in June 2022 in the UK, so if you’re interested in knowing more, go check it out!

Why government pressure on EV chargers is a good thing

There’s plenty of buzz about government regulations in general, and many viewpoints that businesses shouldn’t have to answer to wider society regarding the details of their industries. On the contrary, we hold the opinion that these new UK regulations are not only a benefit to the market, they’re also a must-have to enable future growth.

One of the key requirements included in the new regulations covers the detail around how energy consumption must be measured and managed, including the enforcement of off-peak charging and randomized charging delays.

The motivation behind the introduction of this particular regulation is to relieve pressure on the energy grid, with carefully designed planning for when and how EVs can charge their batteries. There’s no doubt that the grid has the capacity to handle widespread EV charging, but intelligent management of energy usage is a crucial requirement in order to avoid power cuts.  

For example, if most EV owners hook up to charge at the same time, especially when trying to take advantage of a lower tariff, then the sudden huge demand for energy can be too overwhelming for generators to handle. The main challenge for the energy grid is the fine balancing act of demand vs capacity.

Keep in mind, electricity is constantly being generated every single minute of the day, through power stations and, increasingly, renewable sources such as wind and hydro turbines and solar panels. The issue comes with the variation of energy being generated, such as at night when solar isn’t an option. This isn’t a problem in itself, but it is something that has to be managed so that no energy is wasted and gaps in the power supply can be avoided.

And don’t forget that additional supply requirements tend to be fulfilled by sources that are worse for the environment, like gas-powered generators, completely negating the benefit provided by electric vehicles.

 

Smart(er) EVs fulfil regulation requirements 

Clear-cut regulations for EV charging are all well and good for 90% of cases, but what about instances where a vehicle simply must charge its battery, like in emergency situations? This has been accounted for in the regulations, specifically regarding the intelligence of the EV and the charger.

Let’s first discuss the smart energy rules that have been carefully set out in the new regulation, and how they work towards energy balancing and environmental benefits.

  • Default off-peak charging: Charge points must be set up with default “off-peak” charging during specific timeframes. Currently peak hours are defined as 8:00 to 11:00 and 16:00 to 22:00, Monday to Friday, giving EV owners quite a bit of leeway to take advantage of off-peak time, including at the weekend.
  • Random delays to charging: To avoid the above-mentioned scenario of huge numbers of EV owners all starting to charge at the same time and surging the grid, EV chargers are set up to randomly delay the start time of the charge, starting at anywhere from 600 seconds to 1800 seconds (10-30 minutes).
  • Promotion of Demand side response services: EV charge customers can even be rewarded to encourage smarter use of energy, through Demand side response (DSR) solutions. DSR refers specifically to services which can be used to optimise management and keep the grid balanced. These require participants to increase or decrease their usage when requested by the grid, and receive payment for doing so, a great win-win for both the EV owner and the energy networks.

So, with those points in mind, consider why EVs and their chargers need to be intelligent. In the emergency scenario where a charge is desperately needed, limitations can be overridden to ensure that energy is still delivered, and the vehicle can connect to the grid. But in order to do so, intelligence needs to be built in from the ground up (for both the EV charger and vehicle itself), with the capacity to override and set off the chain of events required to keep the grid balanced. 

Stay tuned for our next blog, covering the common FAQs (and misconceptions) we’ve heard from customers about the new UK-specific regulations.

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