Over the next two decades the UK Government will slowly phase out diesel-powered vehicles, and petrol-powered cars soon after. This is in part to combat air pollution which in some cities is reaching critically dangerous levels. London has been found to be in violation of World Health Organisation limits on harmful pollutant PM2.5, so reducing car pollution is paramount.
Phasing out diesel cars will also reduce carbon emissions produced by the UK. However, the project is not as simple as replacing all petrol cars with electric ones: a large amount of changes will need to be made on a societal, legislative and infrastructural level before electrical vehicles can be adopted by the wider public.
Electric cars will need charging ports at home, as well as easy access to charging stations around cities and on motorways. This will take time and cost money, as the infrastructure needed will require significant planning, investment and implementation.
Supporting millions more electric vehicles is feasible, but only if the UK invests £30-80 billion in charging points for enough accessible energy for the entire population. Currently there is enough power in the grid to keep projected numbers charged and running, but not if all them attempt to charge at the same time.
Ofgem has already called for the nation’s electric car users to charge during off-peak hours, which would increase the numbers of cars the grid could currently support by around 60%. Alternatively, a new technology called Vehicle to Grid (V2G) could allow vehicle owners to ‘sell’ the energy stored in their batteries on to others who need it.
Distributing Energy Resource (DER) management systems can help regulate all aspects of utility operations and delivery and can make the entire grid more efficient. Utilising these systems would allow governments a greater degree of control over of the impacts of charging electric vehicles.
Beyond this, new power plants and more efficient grids would have to implemented in order to avoid localised power failures. A widespread switch to an estimated 20 million electric vehicles would see an increase of around 15% in power demand, potentially as high as 40% during peak times if overnight charging at home ports weren’t done by the majority of the population.
By 2040 the UK will need between 1-2.5 million more charging points. Currently, there are only 17,000. More support is needed, both in terms of providing funding, and giving local governments the understanding they need to fully optimise the placement of charging stations.
One of the main reasons for such a drastic switch to electric power is the need to lower carbon emissions to combat global warming. The reasoning behind the shift should never be forgotten, as some are calling for fossil fuel power stations to provide the electricity for the new vehicles, which some experts claim would actually cause more pollution than the equivalent amount of petrol cars, thus entirely defeating the point.
It’s clear that the shift to electric vehicles will happen, the only question is how fast we’ll see them take over from diesel and petrol cars. This will largely be determined by the level of infrastructure and support the electric vehicle market is given, and how easy it is for the public to adopt this new technology.
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