Creating the UK’s first smart-charging market for electric vehicle drivers

Posted: 20 February 2019 | | No comments yet

Ian Cameron, Head of Innovation at UK Power Networks, said smart charging is about promoting choice for consumers and offering incentives to change their charging patterns.


UK Power Networks is working towards creating the country’s first smart-charging market for electric vehicle (EV) drivers.

The new market would put EV drivers in control, enabling them to charge when and where required, whilst rewarding people who choose to charge outside of peak times.

Filling up a typical EV on a fast charger consumes approximately as much electricity as a house would use at the peak time of the day. Therefore, charging many EVs at the same time can place significant additional demands on the local electricity infrastructure. UK Power Networks is developing ways of managing this additional demand.

For its SmartCar project, UK Power Networks has commissioned independent research on how smart charging (moving charging away from peak times in weekday evenings) can help avoid an increase in peak demand.

Extensive engagement undertaken as part of the project – with stakeholders ranging from electricity suppliers, vehicle manufacturers, chargepoint operators and aggregators – found significant support for progressing smart-charging trials.

Ian Cameron, Head of Innovation at UK Power Networks, said: “Enabling all customers to share in the savings generated by not having to build as much new electricity infrastructure could cut the cost of operating electric vehicles. We believe smart charging will enable us to support the uptake of electric vehicles across our networks at the lowest possible cost to customers. However, incentives from networks will not by themselves change people’s charging habits – it will need a mix of lower energy costs from retailers plus the reduced network cost incentives.

“There are several ways that we as electricity networks could approach the challenge of electric vehicles, one of which could be by installing failsafe technical network protection technology. We listened to what the industry and stakeholders told us and set out on an alternative path. A smart-charging market gives consumers more choice. It’s the more challenging approach, but it’s also the right thing to do by our customers.”

Octopus Energy and Octopus Electric Vehicles are partnering with UK Power Networks on the Powerloop Vehicle to Grid trial supported by Innovate UK.

Greg Jackson, CEO of Octopus Energy, said: “Results from our Agile Octopus tariff show that you can significantly shift energy consumption behaviour by rewarding customers for charging outside peak times.

“By listening to retailers and taking this customer-centric approach to smart charging instead of a ‘command-and-control’ model, UK Power Networks is demonstrating innovation and leadership.”

UK Power Networks is beginning trials that will test and develop different approaches to smart charging as part of an innovation project called ‘Shift’. This project will assess the technical and commercial requirements to enable the benefits of smart charging to be realised for UK consumers.