Large-scale trial backs smart charging to balance electricity demand

Electric Nation project analysed 140,000 charges by nearly 700 users over 18 months

Electric Nation

A large-scale trial of plug-in car users suggests there is sufficient flexibility in charging patterns to manage electricity demand from the grid at peak times.

The Electric Nation project, which concluded in December, analysed almost 700 electric and plug-in hybrid car drivers over 18 months, recording 140,000 individual charging events.

Initial findings from the study include that, on average, vehicles are plugged in for over 12 hours, but are rarely charging for all that time. The study also demonstrated that the average charging event starts with the battery more than 50% full, while most users need to charge three times a week.

Throughout the trial, the owners involved also tested smart charging strategies. These include using apps to encourage driver interaction with smart charging systems and minimise disruption to planned journeys, and offering incentives to encourage owners to recharge when electricity demand is low – late at night rather than early in the evening, for example.

The 673 participants represented a cross-section of plug-in vehicle types, with over 40 different makes and models taking part. These included plug-in hybrids and fully electric vehicles with varying battery sizes. The project monitored the users' charging habits to gather data on plug-in behaviour, including frequency, length and amount of energy consumed.

Electricity distribution firm Western Power Distribution hosted the study and will use it to improve its understanding of the impact of plug-in vehicles on its networks and how this could be reduced using smart chargers as well as customer incentives.

Separately, DrivingElectric recently spoke to National Grid head of innovation Stephen Marland, who told us that the organisation isn't worried about adverse effects of a mass switchover to electric cars.