U.K. Grid Faces Test of 1 Million Electric Cars in 5 Years

Electric vehicles will boost peak demand on Britain’s power network by as much as 16 percent by 2035, according to National Grid Plc.

One million electric cars and trucks are projected to be on U.K. roads by the early 2020s, with as many as 9 million by 2030, the operator of the nation’s power and natural gas grids said in a report published Thursday. In another scenario outlined by the study, the increase in peak demand may be as little as 5 percent.

Demand for power will be highest in a situation where vehicle owners charge when it’s convenient and they aren’t concerned about electricity costs, according to the National Grid’s Future Energy Scenarios report. A more modest increase occurs if Britain makes environmental sustainability a policy priority. In that case, shared, driverless vehicles could make up half of electric transport, with charging taking place at off-peak times when power prices are lowest.

In the “most challenging” scenario, electric vehicles could create an additional demand of 18 gigawatts by 2050. That’s about half of the U.K. typical daily peak demand in April through June.

“The scenarios are not predictions, but they aim to be a catalyst for debate, decision making and change, and provide transparency to the wider industry,” Marcus Stewart, head of energy insights at National Grid, said in a statement. “This new era of network operation is exciting and manageable, but it’s important there is investment in smart technologies and electricity infrastructure, and a coordinated approach across the whole electricity system.”

Volvo Car Group said last week it’s phasing out cars that rely on internal combustion engines, while France plans to end sales of gasoline- and diesel-powered cars by 2040. Electric cars will outsell their fossil-fuel counterparts within two decades, Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicted earlier this month.

Some electric cars may benefit the power network. As they’re plugged into the grid, they can help make the U.K. network more sustainable and stable, Francisco Carranza, director of energy services at Nissan Motor Co.’s European unit, said in the statement.

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