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How will widespread use of electric cars impact the power grid?

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(Mar. 28, 2012) — A resource to estimate the impact that greater use of electric vehicles will have on the national grid has been developed by a team of experts at Northumbria University.

Dr Ghanim Putrus, Reader in Electrical Power Engineering in the School of Computing, Engineering and Information Sciences, led the project to create an easy-to-use tool that allows policy makers to predict and prepare for the increased use of electric cars and how it will affect the power network.

The development of the new grid capacity calculator was a collaboration involving Northumbria University and Charge your Car project, a government programme which is currently installing electric vehicle charging points across North East England.

The North East has been highlighted as the UK's first designated low carbon economic area (LCEA) and there are plans to create a local infrastructure to support electric vehicles, including the installation of 1,000 electric car charging points in the region by 2013. These measures are likely to encourage more people to buy electric cars, therefore careful planning is necessary to minimise the added pressure on the grid caused by multiple users charging their vehicles at the same time.

The impact on the electrical distribution network will be more complex and difficult to analyse when the increased use of electric vehicles is combined with the expected increase in other technologies designed to reduce carbon output, such as micro-generators and heat pumps in homes and buildings.

By allowing users to assess the impact of electric vehicles on an area's grid in the presence of other low carbon technologies, the new tool will enable informed planning of the infrastructure for electric vehicles. The user-friendly tool is flexible and can be applied across all regions.

Dr Putrus said: "The resource will help policy-makers, developers and network operators to analyse the impact of electric vehicles in the presence of micro generators and low carbon technologies. It will help to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. This tool will help to build the infrastructure around electric cars and can be used inside and outside the region, as well as in international contexts.

"Any electricity usage scenario can be tested using this tool, giving a picture of what can happen to existing grid infrastructure and helping to plan future power networks or smart grids."

The tool is the result of excellent team work involving Dr Sara Walker (School of the Built and Natural Environment), Dr David Johnston and Mr Edward Bentley (School of Computing, Engineering and Information Sciences). The team is currently discussing a follow up project with Charge your Car, which will develop the tool further to allow analysis of 'smart charging' of electric vehicles.

The team is also involved in a related European project (E-mobility NSR) addressing 'smart grids solutions' for future power networks and other joint projects on electrical vehicles with the School of Design.

These projects and other ongoing research will put Northumbria University at the forefront of research into a new generation of transport and the supporting infrastructure (smart grids).


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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Northumbria University, via AlphaGalileo.

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