AI Charge Points Smart Grids UK

How AI is solving the Space Race for EV Chargers

One of the most popular criticisms of EVs is that mass adoption will break the National Electricity Grid! Not only is this incorrect thanks to smart grids and off peak charging, but EVs are actually likely to increase the capacity of the National Grid once Vehicle to Grid charging becomes more widely available.

However at the moment, it is true that the current ‘Race for Space’ for new rapid charge points is sometimes held back by the amount of available power in a particular area.

The UK is now the second largest EV market in Europe and is experiencing a rapid charge point ‘Race for Space’, with multiple energy companies and start-ups battling to open as many rapid chargers as possible. This is particularly focused on London, the South East and East Anglia which have the highest EV adoption rates and are forecast to have 4.5 million EVs by 2030.

Companies such as BP Pulse, Tesla, InstaVolt and Osprey are racing to build rapid charge points in the best locations, with over 100 new rapid chargers being launched a month. However as each rapid charger can use as much electricity capacity as an apartment block, there is not always the guaranteed power in an area for new rapid charge points to get permission.

In an attempt to help solve this problem an innovative new project has successfully used Artificial Intelligence (AI) to redistribute electrical capacity around an urban smart grid to accommodate more EV charge points.

The collaborative project by UK Power Networks, CGI and Ricardo Energy & Environment was trialled at a Primary Substation in the London suburb of Tooting. The new software processed huge amounts of data and diverted power flows around the network to more efficiently distribute electricity across the neighbourhood. Without having to build new substations or lay new cables, the software was able to free up 1000kW of capacity in just one substation. This is enough to power 142 more fast chargers or 20 new rapid charge points.

With over 1,500 similar substations across London, East England and the South East, this new AI software has the potential to free up space for up to 30,000 more rapid charge points. This is more than 6 times the total number of rapid charge points in the whole of the UK, so is not an insignificant amount.

This project is so exciting as it has the potential to increase grid capacity for a relatively low cost and little infrastructure investment. And as every EV owner will probably agree, we still need a lot more rapid charge points in great locations.

Photo from Alexander Popov and Sophie Jonas on Unsplash.

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