Fears National Grid won’t cope if drivers charge their vehicles at ‘on peak’ times

Electric car drivers could cause blackouts if they charge their vehicles at ‘on peak’ times during the day, an MP has warned. 

The Commons Transport Select Committee said owners should be incentivised to recharge batteries ‘little but often’ to avoid shortages. 

Tory MP Huw Merriman, who chairs the committee, warned that the National Grid would need to be upgraded if it was going to cope with charging throughout the day.

The AA raised its own concerns over the committees call for a zero emissions vehicle mandate to improve EV uptake, instead asking for VAT to be exempt for purchases of EVs

The AA raised its own concerns over the committees call for a zero emissions vehicle mandate to improve EV uptake, instead asking for VAT to be exempt for purchases of EVs

He said: ‘Unless the National Grid gains more capacity, consumer behaviour will have to alter so that charging takes place when supply can meet the additional demand.

‘The alternative will be blackouts in parts of the country. We also cannot have a repeat of the broadband and mobile ‘not spot’ lottery which would mean those in remote parts cannot join the electric vehicle revolution.

‘To help consumers see their route to a zero emission world, choosing to run an electric vehicle must be as seamless as possible.’ 

Motorists should be persuaded to charge cars at times when the National Grid can meet total demand, such as overnight, the committee said. 

During its inquiry, the committee heard evidence from energy industry representatives that smart chargers – which alter the amount of electricity sent to a car depending on overall demand – will play a crucial role.

The report called on ministers to work with National Grid to identify locations where the system will not be able to cope with additional usage.

CMA warned of there being a postcode lottery for EV charging infrastructure. Latest figures show that availability of public devices in London dwarfs more rural areas. Source: Electric vehicle charging device statistics: April 2021 - GOV.UK

CMA warned of there being a postcode lottery for EV charging infrastructure. Latest figures show that availability of public devices in London dwarfs more rural areas. Source: Electric vehicle charging device statistics: April 2021 – GOV.UK

It stressed the importance of protecting consumers recharging in public from excessive fees and a requirement to hold multiple accounts.

The report said: ‘The Government must mandate that industry uses price as a lever to move consumer behaviour away from conventional refuelling habits towards ‘a little but often’ approach.’

During its inquiry, the committee heard evidence from energy industry representatives that smart chargers – which alter the amount of electricity sent to a car depending on overall demand – will play a crucial role.

The report called on ministers to work with National Grid to identify locations where the system will not be able to cope with additional usage.

It stressed the importance of protecting consumers recharging in public from excessive fees and a requirement to hold multiple accounts.

The Government plans to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030, with hybrids prohibited from 2035.

The differences between areas in the UK showing where chargers are per 100,000 people (data from 2020)

The differences between areas in the UK showing where chargers are per 100,000 people (data from 2020) 

Just 11% of new car registrations last year were for ultra-low emission cars.

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: ‘Our vision is to have one of the best electric vehicle infrastructure networks in the world.

Transport Committee’s six recommendations

1. Work with the National Grid to map national coverage to eradicate ‘not-spot’ areas and identify locations where the Grid will not cope with additional usage

2. Make public charge provision a requirement of local development and provide funding for local planning and transport bodies to hire staff with a mandate to deliver charging infrastructure

3. Protect the consumer from excessive charges and multiple accounts when charging in public

4. Address the discrepancy between the 5% VAT incurred for home charging and 20% VAT for on-street

5. Insist that industry uses price to change consumer charging behaviour to a ‘little but often’ approach and at times when the National Grid can meet total demand

6. Boost the manufacturing and sales of new electric vehicles by requiring those who sell the fewest electric vehicles to buy credits from those who produce the most; such credit to then be used to reduce the purchase price of electric vehicles (the ‘ZEV Mandate’)

‘As more people make the switch to electric, we want charge points to be accessible and affordable right across the country, which is why we welcome the Transport Select Committee’s report.

‘Alongside our new ambitious phase-out dates, we have announced £1.3 billion to accelerate the rollout of charging infrastructure, targeting support on motorways and major A roads to dash any anxiety around long journeys, and installing more on-street charge points near homes and workplaces to make charging as easy as refuelling a petrol or diesel car.’

Graeme Cooper, head of future markets at National Grid, said: ‘We’ll be working with Government to map out where critical grid capacity is needed to enable the faster rollout of charging points.

‘But also looking a step ahead to the needs of electric or hydrogen trucks and other forms of transport.

‘There will be an uptick in demand for energy so we need to ensure that we are future proofing, putting the right wires in the right place for future demand.’

Their report comes less than a week after the Competition and Markets Authority raised its own concerns over the slow roll-out of nation’s public charging network and an existing postcode lottery of chargepoints.

It called for an increased roll-out of rapid devices so that charging an EV could be ‘as simple as filling up with petrol or diesel’.

The Transport Committee’s paper provides a raft of recommendations to improve the public charging network in Britain, amid fears that there will be an infrastructure postcode lottery, with drivers in rural and remote areas and those without off-street parking having limited access to devices.

MPs said the National Grid either needs to be upgraded to cope with the surge in EV demand, or industry pushed to introduce incentives that promote 'little but often' charges to reduce the strain on the electricity network

MPs said the National Grid either needs to be upgraded to cope with the surge in EV demand, or industry pushed to introduce incentives that promote ‘little but often’ charges to reduce the strain on the electricity network

It wants the Government to make public charge provision a requirement of local development – and provide funding for local planning and transport bodies to hire staff with a mandate to deliver charging infrastructure.

It also calls for protection for drivers from excessive costs and to tackle the tax discrepancy between charging at home and using a public device.

Currently, just 5 per cent VAT is incurred for home charging, while those using on-street devices face the full 20 per cent rate.

The report also called for a Zero Emission Vehicle mandate by 2035 to boost both the manufacturing and sales of new electric vehicles, requiring those who sell the fewest electric vehicles to buy credits from those who produce the most.

These credits could then be used to cut the purchase price of a new electric car.

Plug-in postcodes: These are the UK locations where demand for electric vehicles grew the fastest last year

Plug-in postcodes: These are the UK locations where demand for electric vehicles grew the fastest last year

MPs on the committee said that ‘shifting the subsidy from the taxpayer to the manufacturer will incentivise those who deliver the fewest electric vehicles in our showrooms to up their game’. 

Randolph Brazier, Director of Innovation and Electricity Systems at Energy Networks Association which represents the UK and Ireland’s energy networks businesses said: ‘A smart, flexible grid is the most efficient and reliable option for us to hit Net Zero – one which we are paving the way towards with our world-leading flexibility markets and intelligent systems. 

‘Allowing early investment in the electricity networks now and making sure that charging points are smart will empower customers across the country, keeping their costs down and making sure that they see the full benefit of their electric vehicles.’ 

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