A lot of people think that the reason Electric Vehicles aren’t common on the roads is because the charging infrastructure in combination with the distance the cars can go is prohibitive. Now that might be true but it is not the full story.
Today in the UK there 38.7 million cars registered for use on UK roads or which 28, ooo are electric vehicles. So a very small splash in a big ocean.
Now to address this shortfall the UK Government is proposing that all new cars sold from 2040 onwards will be zero emission cars. In other words all cars sold from 2040 will be electric cars given that Compress Natural Gas (CNG), Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) and Fuel Cell cars are significantly behind even the EV evolution.
What many in the UK probably do not realise is that an average home charger for an Electric Vehicle is rated either at 3.7 KW or 7KW. Commercial chargers (the ones you see in the street) are rated at upto 22KW as they can use 3 phase electricity (higher voltage for quicker charging). To accommodate 38.7 million Electric Vehicles on our roads the national grid would have to be able to access an installed generation capacity of between 150 GW to 850 GW is using conventional power generation i.e. power that is there all of the time.
Lets assume a car using a 7KW charge takes 8 hours to reach full charge and that this needs to happen every day in order to allow people to travel back and forward to work. Then over a typical year the UK would have to generate around 791 TWh of electricity simply to allow everyone to charge their cars.
If we assume that all of this demand is met by low carbon technologies such as offshore wind, then the installed generation capacity of our renewable estate would have to be around 225 GW. Currently our estate is at 44GW. Thus we would have to install 5x the existing estate of renewables within a short period of time in order to meet the demand for EVs alone.
In reality if we wanted the electricity for our homes to be carbon neutral, the heat we use in our homes to be carbon neutral and the transport we use to be carbon neutral then we would have to likely install around 25x the amount of renewable energy plant we current have in order to accommodate a carbon free energy system.
Forgetting everything else, is it possible to install 225 GW of renewable energy plant within the next 50 years? This is equivalent to 2000 large scale offshore wind farms, which would require the UK to consent and build around 40 wind farms each year.
It is possible but the rate of installation (2.2 GW of installed capacity) would have to more than double in order to achieve this target. This will come down to economics and legislation. Both of which will have to change in order to incentives developers to ramp up their development programs, as well as support for greater infrastructure funding to allow for battery storage and improved network transmission capacity.
A big challenge if we really want to all run around in EVs in the coming years.