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What do electric cars mean for the UK’s electrical infrastructure?

06 February 2020

Electric vehicles will increase the need for smart charge points across the UK 

The UK Government’s target for all new cars and vans to be zero-emission by 2040 will increase the demand for clean electricity which means the need for an appropriate electric vehicle infrastructure is vital, says Doug Gracias, Engineering Director at Prysmian UK

Road to Zero Strategy

In 2018 the government published the Road to Zero strategy, which set out its intention for all new cars and vans to be zero emission by 2040. Last year, the government published a consultation on Electric Vehicle Charging in Residential and Non Residential Buildings and a consultation on Smart Charging to encourage consumers to charge electric vehicles when grid demand is off-peak. Currently the government is "analysing feedback" from both consultations.

Residential Vehicle Chargepoints

The consultations include a proposal to create a new part to the Building Regulations in England to ensure that all new homes with a dedicated car parking space are built with an electric charge point and a metering system to monitor and record the electricity consumed to make charging easier, cheaper and more convenient for drivers.

In addition to new homes, the government is proposing that the requirement for chargepoints will include buildings "undergoing a material change of use to create a dwelling"; this would be the case, for example, where an old warehouse is converted into residential apartments. Similarly, apartment blocks with more than 10 car parking spaces undergoing major renovation will have to have cable routes for electric vehicle chargepoints in every parking space.

Non-Residential Chargepoints

The intention is that the same rules will also apply to every non-residential building with more than 10 parking spaces undergoing a major renovation. And from 2025, there should be at least one charge point in existing non-residential buildings with more than 20 car parking spaces - could mean a lot of work retrofitting electric vehicle charge points to business premises, retail parks and civic buildings.

'Smart' Vehicle Chargepoints

With so many new electric vehicle charge points proposed there are concerns that the energy distribution networks will become overloaded. To control demand the government is proposing to use "smart" chargepoints, which could prevent vehicle charging at time of peak electrical demand. The Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 (AEV Act) gives Government the powers, through secondary legislation, to ensure that all chargepoints sold or installed in the UK will have smart functionality.

The consultations say that all new, smart chargepoints will be required to comply with a new British Standard, which is currently under development and is expected to be published soon. This is expected to make it a requirement that charge points must have a minimum power rating of 7kW and are fitted with a universal socket that can charge all types of electric vehicle currently on the market.

Network Opportunities

With the UK Parliament having declared a climate change emergency it seems likely the government will want to do all it can to encourage the take-up of electric vehicles. For electrical contractors, this could mean a whole new set of opportunities for the design, installation and maintenance of networks of charging points - all of which will need to be connected to an electrical supply using suitable design and reliable cables, such as those manufactured by Prysmian.

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