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Charging six electric cars at once could cause local power outages

May 29, 2017

By Paul Homewood

From Auto Express:


ScreenHunter_794 May. 29 14.35

Britain’s energy networks are in need of investment and improvement if they’re to deal with future uptake of EVs

Just six electric cars charging at the same time on a street could cause local power shortages, according to a new study that warns Britain’s energy system needs urgent investment to keep pace with EV uptake.

A report by Green Alliance said the country’s energy networks are unprepared to deal with the growing uptake of electric cars and solar panels in the future. Unless there’s investment in significant upgrades, the uptake of electric cars is a “recipe for disaster,” as blackouts, inadequate generation at peak times and rising energy bills grow.

Already, "as few as six closely located vehicles charging together at peak times could lead to local brownouts." The report by Green Alliance said a single EV charge can use as much electricity as a household uses in three days.

Today, the 86,169 plug-in and electric cars on the road consume less than one per cent of the annual electricity output, however, by 2040 – when over 4.6 million EVs are forecasted on Britain’s roads – electric cars could account for 7 per cent of total electricity demand, according to energy consultants Element Energy.

To avoid congestion and blackouts during peak hours, the Green Alliance urges the Government to invest in more smart chargers that can defer when cars are topped up, as well as invest in large-scale energy projects like generators.

Investments in public charging infrastructure will also be required, as Auto Express previously highlighted how the UK’s electric charging infrastructure is rapidly falling behind electric vehicle uptake. The ratio of EVs per charger has grown from 0.78 to 7.34 in just four years. The European Commission previously suggested the maximum ratio to avoid charging blockages and congestion is one in 10.

The Green Alliance report warned: “The way the UK energy system is currently governed, this disruption is very likely to lead to future value destruction and grid defection. Both the power system and power markets are designed for unidirectional flows of electricity from large-scale generation to the transmission network, then to the distribution network and, finally, into people’s homes.

“Power markets can be reformed and technologies regulated to create a cost effective, manageable system.This can only happen by first reassessing the role the government plays in determining the energy system.”


If just six cars can trigger a brownout, just imagine what will happen when millions are on the road.

Still, we should not worry. Jillian Ambrose tells us:

Part of the answer is to hand more power to the smaller, local distribution network operators. In the future these small regional networks will need to take on a role similar to that played by National Grid, by carefully managing supplies of power from roof-top solar panels.

It appears nobody has told her that solar power produces next to no power in the middle of winter.


The Telegraph piece continues:

The national system operator itself says it is up to the challenge. It believes electric vehicles could drive electricity demand up by 13- 21 TWh by 2033 and at peak times create a net drain of 1GW, the equivalent of two large power plants.

But these numbers don’t stack up. 21 TWh, averaged over 24 hours, equates to 2.4GW. The peak would be much higher still.

Most drivers logically would plug their cars in during early evening, so we could easily be looking at a peak of 20GW plus.

Smart chargers might help to spread the load a little, but how many drivers will wake up next morning, and find their car batteries are still flat? Particularly when the Grid decides to draw power back from your car at breakfast time, when demand peaks.

The more we look at these sort of detailed issues, the more the problems multiply.

We are rapidly approaching a time of great danger for the energy security of this country. We only have a glimmer of the sort of problems we are creating for ourselves, and even less idea of how to find a way around them.

All of this at great cost, and for no good reason at all.

  1. May 29, 2017 5:37 pm

    No one needs SmartMeter tech
    … EXCEPT electric car chargers

    They should be set to recognise “local network strain” and so switch to slow charge.

  2. HotScot permalink
    May 29, 2017 5:58 pm

    “We are rapidly approaching a time of great danger for the energy security of this country.”

    What energy security?

    • John Palmer permalink
      May 29, 2017 6:36 pm

      +10….. quite so!

  3. markl permalink
    May 29, 2017 5:59 pm

    The problem isn’t so much “when” the cars will be charged as “how many”. As numbers increase you can only divide the time so many ways until someone(s) doesn’t get enough charge time to complete their drive the next use. Another ‘shoot, ready, aim’ from the environ-mentalists. Don’t let facts get in the way if you can throw more of other people’s money at the problem to solve it. Charge access remains the largest problem facing proliferation of electric vehicles.

  4. May 29, 2017 6:48 pm

    John Constable’s article is timely. You will only be allowed to use electricity to charge your car if enough of it is being produced, ie if the wind is blowing or the sun is shining.

  5. May 29, 2017 6:57 pm

    Hybrid maybe, electric car – yuk.

    • May 29, 2017 8:56 pm

      Have owned a full hybrid Ford Escape (small SUV) with AWD and class 1 tow hitch since 2007. Vehicle has 75k miles and still going strong, zero problems (well, ok, one $20 battery temp sensor replacement). Hybrid paid for itself day one because of the then in place hybrid income tax credit which was more than the Ford hybrid premium over the functionally equivalent Escape V6 for MY 2007.
      Has basically since become closer to ‘free’: (1) 32 mpg city, 28 highway at 70mph (and 27+ at 80 mph with air conditioning on) so 1/3 less fuel gallons compared to V6 at 21 city and 24 highway, (2) the hybrid Atkins cycle I4 uses regular, the Otto cycle V6 required premium. The price difference here in Florida and Georgia (our drive radius) is over $1/gallon. 1/3 less gallons, each $1 cheaper. No brainer.

      • Athelstan permalink
        May 29, 2017 11:44 pm

        Dems pretty convincing figures, what’s acceleration like/equivalence, when compared to your previous [gasoline?] autos?

  6. May 29, 2017 7:03 pm

    Some years ago several houses in a street locally went onto night storage heating. 11pm – transformer caught fire. Nuff said

  7. May 29, 2017 7:35 pm

    There is an obvious solution to this problem. Each charging point could be fed from its own diesel generator.

    • John F. Hultquist permalink
      May 29, 2017 7:48 pm

      This just gets funnier and funnier.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      May 29, 2017 8:09 pm

      You beat me to it.
      After all here in Australia as each State suffers generation problems from their policy they switch to large diesel generators (much like your STOR). Curiously they seem reluctant to give them much publicity.

    • Joe Public permalink
      May 29, 2017 8:09 pm


      The good news being our Chancellor would at least recoup some of the fuel duty the EV parasites avoid paying.

      • Dave Ward permalink
        May 30, 2017 9:35 am

        Joe – those gensets would be running on “Red” diesel, which is currently less than half the price of road fuel. So whilst the Chancellor might recoup some duty, it wouldn’t be very much…

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      May 30, 2017 9:08 am

      Many a true word spoken in jest. Connect your generator to one of these.

      • Dave Ward permalink
        May 30, 2017 9:49 am

        @ Ben – I’ve read about these units before – they appear to be well designed and made, and a good solution where a mains supply simply isn’t practical, or seemingly too expensive. If I lived in an “out of the way” location I would be thinking about one myself. BUT how many potential purchasers consider the operating costs over 20+ years before deciding whether they are really cheaper than getting a grid connection. It’s not just the cost of fuel for the genny, but servicing it and, replacement parts. Then there’s cleaning and replacing the solar panels, and new batteries every few years, followed by inverter repairs, and so on…

  8. May 29, 2017 9:06 pm

    The EV problem is much bigger than green concern about local distribution overload. EV Cars are driven during day, parked and charged at night. Average 220v charge time on Chevy Bolt is 25 miles range per hour charging. So the EV charge demand is mostly at night when solar contributes nothing and the grid has to do all the work.

    • Old Englander permalink
      May 30, 2017 8:53 am

      Ah but havn’t you heard that some solar panels now work at night ? They get illuminated by arc lamps run from diesel generators to collect the feed-in tariff subsidy and the scammer still makes a profit (I thought this was an April Fool at first, but apparently an actual scam in Germany). And where does the energy come from in the end ? Well, class, just as before, from fossil fuels of course.

      • Dave Ward permalink
        May 30, 2017 9:51 am

        I believe it was in Spain, not Germany, and the scam has now been stopped, but full marks for inventiveness!

      • catweazle666 permalink
        May 30, 2017 10:26 pm

        I believe it was the troll Griff who, having heard that the Spanish farmers were generating solar power at night stated that scientists had now designed solar panels that work in the dark. Recently he announced that new generation solar panels were transparent, so could be used as windows.
        You can’t fix stupid.

  9. mikewaite permalink
    May 29, 2017 9:08 pm

    Think of this not as a problem but an opportunity, exactly the development that is needed to counter the reckless rush into renewables when the problems of intermittency and frequency stability have not been worked through.
    What will be needed for electric transport en masse is an expanded reliable system of energy generation , based ideally on gas + nuclear + top up from wind and solar , and distributed nationwide , not locally .
    The suggestion :-:

    “Part of the answer is to hand more power to the smaller, local distribution network operators. In the future these small regional networks will need to take on a role similar to that played by National Grid, by carefully managing supplies of power from roof-top solar panels.”

    will mean in practice that in , say Greater Manchester , the residents of Hale and Altrincham , already the richest , will have ready access to energy whilst the residents of the mean terraces of Salford can whistle for their rooftop solar energy .
    I am not a socialist but even I can see that that is not fair.

  10. Gerry, England permalink
    May 29, 2017 9:47 pm

    I suppose the saving grace is that their forecast numbers of EVs on the road will no more accurate than their forecast global warming.

  11. tom0mason permalink
    May 29, 2017 9:52 pm

    Reflecting on BA’s problems with one minor power glitch, what national kerfffle would befall the nation when everyone and most of their amenities and services are linked via some ‘smart’ device system?

    Charge the car? Computer says no(!) to most of the working population on ‘smart’ meters.

    Monitor your insulin? Computer says no to most of the patients.


    The future is ‘smart’……….
    …………the future is ………… blue screen of death?

    • Athelstan permalink
      May 29, 2017 11:46 pm

      Computer switch off human race?

      computer say, YES!

      • May 30, 2017 10:59 am

        Brought to mind the ending of the 1968 movie, “2001: A Space Odyssey” with Dave and the computer.

  12. Wat now permalink
    May 29, 2017 10:47 pm

    Finally the truth comes out, these cars draw high amperage hence blackouts. But it’s all good as the Libtards will be happy because when someone is suffering they take delight.

  13. Tristan Dodson permalink
    May 29, 2017 11:29 pm

    ‘Smart chargers might help to spread the load a little, but how many drivers will wake up next morning, and find their car batteries are still flat?’

    The average driver in the UK drives approximately 40km per day (14,000 km per year). At a pessimistic electricity consumption figure of 0.2 kWh/km, this equates to 8 kWh per day for a BEV. A standard wall socket providing 3.6 kW would recharge the car in less than 2.5 hrs, considerably less than the overnight period when electricity demand is low, the car is unused and the driver is asleep.

    So to answer your question, very few drivers would wake up to find their battery is flat. In addition, with real world ranges already over 150 km, few drivers would actually return home with a flat battery anyway.

    The statement that smart chargers would spread the load ‘a little’ is inaccurate. Smart chargers can spread the load a huge amount, and are a very powerful tool. It is true that if all EV drivers started charging in the early evening then this would have a major impact on peak load. However, EV drivers would be foolish to charge at this time, as charging during night time hours enables them to access the cheapest electricity without any restriction to their driving needs. It is therefore expected that few will do so.

    The overall impact of EVs on the grid in this article is overstated. If 4.6m EVs were charged between 10pm and 6pm when demand is low this would add a night time load of less than 5GW and have no impact on peak capacity.

  14. rifleman1853 permalink
    May 30, 2017 12:21 am

    The up side of all this is that those first to be hit by lack of charging facilities / capacity will be the owners of the electric cars – and I’ve no sympathy for anyone daft enough to spend thousands on transport which lacks the logistical support to be dependable.

    I quote from the Green Alliance report:

    “Both the power system and power markets are designed for unidirectional flows of electricity from large-scale generation to the transmission network, then to the distribution network and, finally, into people’s homes.”

    Exactly – just like the cardiac system inside our bodies; starting with great big arteries connected to the heart, going down to smaller and still smaller ones as they branch out all over our bodies, and finishing up as tiny capilleries near the skin, and in the hands and feet.

    The national grid was designed and built to operate in the same way. Trouble is, all the greenies’ bright ideas require the basic system to be reversed – so that you can pump electricity into the equivalents of the capilleries, rather than into the massive cables close to existing power stations! Needless to say, supply cables and transformers out at the periphery cannot cope with this treatment, because they were never designed and built to do so!

    The Green Alliance report, again:
    “Power markets can be reformed and technologies regulated to create a cost effective, manageable system.”

    BALONEY!! Regardless of how they – or the government – monkey around, if a cable or a transformer was built to handle no more than 1,000 Amps, that’s all it will EVER be able to handle, and no playing silly beggars with ‘markets’ or ‘regulations’ can alter that. For the green nutters to suggest otherwise proves them to be either unbelievably ignorant, or bare-faced liars; from many conversations I’ve had with these zealots over the years, I suspect the former.

    In terms of the engineering and technology, it is certainly feasible to rebuild the national grid to cope with massive reverse flows of electricity, but anyone who thinks it can be done for just a measly few million quid – or even a measly few billion – is living in La-La Land.

    • May 30, 2017 5:41 am

      This reminds me of the joke about the complaint of the owner of a wind farm which could not be connected to the grid because of Ohm’s Law. “Don’t worry” said the Government minister “I’ll get the law amended in parliament”.

      • Athelstan permalink
        May 30, 2017 8:43 am


      • dave permalink
        May 30, 2017 9:23 am

        And enact


        at the same time.

    • May 30, 2017 11:04 am

      A quote from Dr. Thomas Sowell, Economist with the Hoover Institution of Stanford University: “Reality is not optional.”.

  15. ROM permalink
    May 30, 2017 1:25 am

    Fossil fueled vehicle owners over many decades have paid for the entire fuel distribution and filling station network via the profits from fuel sales.
    Governments / taxpayers have contributed very little if anything towards the setting up of the nation[s] wide vehicle filling station networks.

    Likewise neither governments / tax payers nor grid owners / operators should be forced to install charging stations and networks for EV’s at their domestic and business consumers and / or tax payer’s costs.

    The setting up of charging stations, networks of charging stations and the necessary alterations to the grid to cater for the surges in power requirements to re-charge the EV’s should be entirely the responsibility and at the cost of the EV owners / operators and producers alone and without any contribution from any other non EV owning sources.

    This, like the profits from fuel used to build the filling station networks over the decades could be done by the grid owners / operators charging a significant annual loading on each electric vehicle and / or extra charges for the metered power used to re-charge electric vehicles.

  16. gallopingcamel permalink
    May 30, 2017 3:55 am

    Most European nations and especially those that are subsidizing “Renewable Energy” lack significant reserves. The result is instability leading to more frequent brownouts and blackouts. Self imposed 3rd world status.

    If electric vehicles become significant there will have to be a sharp increase in electricity generating capacity. The private sector could easily solve the problem if governments would get out of the way.

  17. Glyn Palmer permalink
    May 30, 2017 2:19 pm

    Mr. Bratby has the right idea, that of generating the power to charge the car’s battery from an in-house diesel or petrol generator. But it can be taken further. Put the generator in the car so it can charge the battery whilst moving. The car can still be plugged in at night and the on-board generator turned on at need wirelessly by the System Operator. In fact, the battery could be dispensed with altogether, the electric motor driving the wheels also if the generator is used as a simple engine to drive the wheels, either the front pair or the back, or even all four. The liquid fuel for the generator/engine is easy transported and the container, which could be built into the vehicle, filled in minutes at specialised fuel dispensing points.
    Oh…er…wait a minute…

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