Motorway with electric pylons in background

Can the UK energy grid cope with more electric vehicles?

As the UK adopts more and more electric vehicles, there have been questions regarding the country’s energy grid, and whether it can handle the increased strain.

In 2009, 55 electric cars were sold in the UK. Now, in 2021, there are over 515,000 plug-in vehicles on our roads. This consists of around 280,000 hybrid vehicles and 260,000 battery electric vehicles.

This is a huge increase in the adoption of plug-in vehicles, and the country is expected to continue transitioning to low emissions vehicles at a faster rate each year. With that in mind, it is understandable why concerns have been expressed in regard to the energy grid.

Is the grid prepared for millions of people charging their vehicles, all across the country?

Why is the UK adopting plug-in vehicles so quickly?

Of course, climate change is the primary drive behind this transition. The transport sector accounted for 27% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019.

If we are to reach our climate targets, the transport industry will have to reduce its reliance on fossil fuel burning vehicles and join the EV fleet. They will have to do it quickly too. A report by the CCC estimates that we will need 23.2 million EVs on road by 2032 in order to stay on target.

Whilst we are currently behind this target, it may still be possible thanks to new government policies.

As part of the Prime Minister’s ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution, measures have been put in place to accelerate the shift towards zero-emissions vehicles. These measures include the 2030 ban on the sale and production of petrol and diesel vehicles.

With this ban less than a decade away, many drivers are making the choice to adopt EVs sooner.

There are also grants available from the government to help purchase a plug-in vehicle. The amount offered in the grant depends on the type of vehicle. The government will pay for 35% of the full price of an electric car up to a maximum of £2,500.

Other grants exist, such as the workplace charging scheme, to financially assist businesses looking to install electric vehicle chargers in their places of work.

So, with a massive shift happening on the UK’s roads, how will the energy grid be affected?

Does the energy grid have the capacity to support more charging?

In short, yes.

According to National Grid’s project director, it is expected that electricity demand would increase by 10% if the entire country switched to EVs overnight and started charging.

Some might argue that 10% is a huge increase. However, increased reliance on off-grid energy sources such as solar panels has helped the country to rely less on the energy grid. In fact, the UK’s peak demand has fallen by 16% since 2002.

Basically, if we all started charging our cars today, we’d still be putting less strain on the energy grid than we were 19 years ago!

EV charger in car with graphics indicating charge progress

When is the best time to charge my vehicle?

Whilst the grid could certainly handle the demand if all vehicles were charged at once, this would be less efficient.

The grid sees the most demand between 6pm and 10pm. This is when most people return home from work; they’ll be switching lights on as it gets dark and using appliances.

When someone returns home from work, they will likely put their vehicle on charge straight away.

However, this may not be ideal. Having peaks and troughs of energy demand isn’t as efficient as having a balanced demand throughout the day.

Currently, the grid’s peak demand is between 6pm and 10pm, but then this quickly drops as people go to sleep. Overnight, demand is much lower than average. This means certain systems must be turned off, in order to not supply too much power to the country.

Therefore, the best time to charge your electric vehicle may be just before you go to bed. If cars were left charging from 10pm to 6am, this would fill in the huge gap in demand. Night time charging would also mean there isn’t an increased strain on the grid during the peak hours, which already require a lot of power.

When the demand is more balanced throughout the day, the system works more efficiently, meaning electricity costs will actually be lower for the consumer.

Are you ready for electric vehicles?

The UK seems to be well prepared for the changes ahead. When will you be making the transition? Are you a fleet manager considering adopting a fleet of EVs?

Get in touch with Fuel Card Services today to see how we could help you. We can keep your fuel and charging costs low, and our fleet management services are to help your fleet work at maximum efficiency.

Electric charge point, charging a white electric car

Office for Zero Emission Vehicles – how can they help your business?

There’s no denying that the next decade will see many changes on our roads as zero emission vehicles become commonplace.

This change is not without government backing. In fact, a team exists within the government to support the UK’s transition – the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles.

Who are the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV)?

OZEV is a team within the government working to support the UK’s transition towards electric infrastructure. The office is comprised of staff and funding from the Department for Transport, as well as the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The office is responsible for advising ministers on matters concerning the transition to low emission vehicles. Their goal is to improve access to charging by supporting the rollout of charging infrastructure in order to make the transition more convenient and viable for consumers and businesses alike.

What are they specifically doing that could be of benefit to your business and fleet?

The Workplace Charging Scheme

OZEV operates the Workplace Charging Scheme (WCS). This provides support to businesses, charities and public sector organisations looking to install electric vehicle charging points.

The WCS offers businesses up to £350 per socket for up to 40 charging sockets.

Your business can apply for the scheme if you meet the following criteria:

  • Are a registered company.
  • Must be either a public authority, or have received less than €200,000 of public support within the last 3 years.
  • Can either declare a need for charging equipment, or show intent to encourage EV uptake among staff or fleet.
  • Are located within the United Kingdom.
  • Have dedicated off-street parking.
  • Either own the property on which the charging points will be installed, or you can provide proof of consent from the landlord.

As of July 2021, the scheme has funded over 13,000 charging point installations.

In addition, drivers who personally own an electric vehicle can apply to the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme, which offer £350 to help towards installing a charging point at home.

Research and innovation

The Office for Zero Emission Vehicles also funds and supports the research of emerging technologies. They hope that the UK can use the results of this research to “exploit and lead globally”.

Their goal is to use this research to make the most of the environmental and economic benefits that the country will see as we make the transition to a zero emissions infrastructure.

The government is set to provide £1.3 billion by 2025 in hopes of supporting the roll-out of charging points on motorways and A-roads, as well as in homes and businesses.

By 2023, OZEV aims to see a minimum of six high powered charge points at each motorway service area. By 2035, the government office expects to see 6,000 high powered chargers on the motorway network.

This is promising progress. Research suggests that the UK will need to install five times as many charging points as it has right now, if we are going to meet our climate goals.

Later this year, the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles will release their Infrastructure Strategy. This will outline how they plan to support the charging infrastructure rollout needed to achieve the 2030 phase out of carbon burning vehicles.

Row of electric cars connected to charging points

What is the 2030 ban on fossil fuel vehicles?

The government announced in 2020 that the sale and production of petrol and diesel cars would be banned in 2030.

This ban is just one step in the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan to revolutionise the UK’s industries and infrastructures to be more environmentally friendly, and make progress towards reaching our climate goals.

The ban was initially set to happen in 2040, only 10 years before the country aims to reach net zero. Pressure from green groups saw the ban brought forward to 2035, then again to 2030.

OZEV is the driving force behind ensuring that the UK has the infrastructure in place to support this change.

Many drivers have felt nervous about making the change to a low emissions vehicle. Fears about range limitations and charging speeds put a dent in the reputation of EVs. Drivers were worried that, compared to their fossil fuel burning vehicle, an EV would only travel a portion of the distance they required before having to stop at a charging point, which could take hours to get the battery up to full capacity.

With OZEV’s support and planning, however, these worries will likely subside in the coming years. The workplace and home charging schemes, as well as their funding towards public charging points will mean all drivers have easy access to EV charging.

How can Fuel Card Services help your business transition to EVs?

Businesses should ensure their fleets have easy access to the right charging facilities. On top of that, reducing fleet costs is equally important.

Our range of fleet management services can help your business save time and money, and ensure your operations run smoothly and efficiently. Get in touch with our team of experts today and see how we could help your business.

Electric car charging point

Electric vehicle orders surpass ICE orders at Zenith for the first time

June of 2021 saw orders for electric vehicles overtake orders for traditional combustion engine vehicles at Zenith. This is the first time that the company has seen a statistic like this in its over 30-year history.

Does this increase in orders indicate an overall change on the UK’s roads in the years to come?

What vehicles were ordered?

Zenith is a business that leases vehicles to some of the largest organisations in the UK. Businesses might hire cars, LCVs or HGVs from Zenith to help bolster their fleet.

The company declared that 54% of their orders were attributed to electric vehicles in June. This time last year, EVs only accounted for 32% of their orders, which shows a dramatic increase over the last 12 months.

Interestingly, the most dramatic increase in demand can be seen in orders for electric vans. In June 2020, only 1% of van orders were electric. In June 2021 however, 69% of ordered vans were electric! This shows a massive increase in interest and demand for EVs amongst fleet operators and drivers.

Zenith partly attributes this increase in demand to their salary sacrifice scheme. Since employees making use of this scheme have to pay a benefit-in-kind tax, an electric vehicle makes more sense for those wishing to spend less in the long term.

Is an increase in EV demand to be expected?

Electric vehicle orders surpassing ICE vehicles is a trend that is likely to become more common for leasing businesses. However, it is interesting since some have expressed that a statistic such as this has come sooner than they expected.

In the UK, that electrification of our transportation infrastructure is considered to be quite inevitable.

Whilst some are surprised to see electric vehicle popularity increase at a high rate, others argue that this is to be expected. With many manufacturers such as Jaguar and Lotus declaring that they will only be selling electric vehicles before the end of the decade, forward thinking drivers might see the inevitability of EVs and purchase one sooner rather than later.

The BBC predicts that, much like the internet in the early 2000s, the growth of the electric vehicle market will not be a slow and steady one. It’s possible that we will see a massive growth in the next few years that transforms our roads and transportation industry.

If this is the case, it is important that fleet managers are ready for it.

Woman plugging charger into electric vehicle

Why might the electrification of our roads happen so quickly?

Whilst ICE vehicles have still got plenty of time left, their phasing out is approaching for a number of reasons.

The government plans to ban the sale and production of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2030 onwards. This is being done as part of a “green industrial revolution”, where the government is striving to tackle climate change and create jobs in cleaner, more sustainable industries.

From 2030, however, you can still sell your old ICE vehicle to someone else. You just won’t see any brand new petrol or diesel vehicles rolling out of car dealerships after that point.

There is the argument that developments in synthetic fuels will prolong the life of ICE vehicles, especially since they emit less harmful gases.

The most common conceptions against the adoption of electric vehicles are also being chipped away. For example, many drivers have refused to consider making the switch to an electric vehicle due to their range limitations.

However, there are now over 15,000 charging locations with 42,000 charging points in the country. This number increase dramatically year on year. It’s now just as easy to charge your electric vehicle as it is to fill up your petrol vehicle. Of course, battery lives differ between vehicles and charging can take up to an hour, but massive improvements in both of these areas are expected to be made within the decade.

Are you ready to make the switch to EVs?

Whether you plan to make the switch now or in a few years, it’s worth planning ahead. There are currently plenty of financial benefits to moving your fleet over to EVs.

However, in the meantime, it’s also important for fleet managers to focus on cutting costs now. Get in touch with Fuel Card Services and find out how we could help. We offer a range of fuel cards as well as a host of fleet management services designed to save you time and money.

Electric vehicle charger with blue glow

Installing EV Charging Depots – What Should Be Considered?

There can be no denying that electric vehicles are on the rise. Over the last five years, the total volume of plug-in vehicles registered to the UK (meaning pure electric and hybrid models), has increased fivefold to 515,000.

With growth in the number of vehicles on the roads comes a growth in demand for the infrastructure and technology to charge those vehicles, and it’s this exact topic that we’ll be diving into today as we examine the challenges and considerations associated with EV charging depots.

This article is intended to help fleet operators make smart decisions around EV charging, but it’s also packed with information that could help you get to grips with the basics of EV charging if you’re a consumer and thinking about having an electric charging point installed at your home.

What is an EV charger?

At an electric vehicle (EV) charging station or depot, you’ll find a simple charging unit that you can plug your electric vehicle into. Once plugged in, a direct electric current will flow into your vehicle, charging the battery so you can get back onto the roads.

On the 4th January 2021, there were 20,755 public electric vehicle charging units available in the UK- with 3,880 of those being rapid-charge devices. This number is growing quickly, with the total amount of devices increasing by a quarter at one stage in 2020 and, if the current trend continues, we should expect to see it increase to around 25,000 by 2022.

Aside from public charging stations, though, there’s also the option of having a charging point installed at a residential household or commercial depot. This is desirable both for consumers with hybrid or electric cars as their main modes of transport, and for businesses who wish to electrify their fleets and have them charge up on commercial premises while not in use. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the type of EV chargers you’ll find in market.

Types of EV charger

Whether chargers are being bought by a commercial entity or an individual for residential use, they broadly fit into three main categories:

1) Rapid EV chargers

Naturally, these devices are the fastest type of EV chargers you’ll find in the UK. Examples include Rapid DC chargers, Tesla’s Supercharger network, and Rapid AC chargers – and they’re typically found at dedicated charging stations.

These high-speed chargers can supply power at upward of 50kWs, which means they could charge most electric vehicles to 80% power within 20 minutes to an hour, which of course varies based on the vehicle and battery.

It’s worth noting that not all vehicles capable of handling the voltage associated with rapid charging are compatible with all charging networks. Tesla’s supercharging network, for example, exclusively works with Tesla vehicles such as the Model X and Model S. Potentially the most compatible rapid charging format is CHAdeMO, with the Nissan Leaf, Hyundai EVs, and Mitsubishi hybrid models using this 50kW charging model.

2) Fast EV chargers

You’ll find fast EV chargers at locations where vehicles are likely to be parked for an hour or more. Think supermarkets, shopping centres, and the likes.

These charging devices typically offer either 7kW/h or 22kW charging speeds. By simply dividing the total kW capacity of your EV’s battery by the charging speed, you can calculate roughly how long it would take to charge your EV. So, a 50kW battery on a 22kW fast charger would require around 2-3 hours to fully charge.

3) Slow EV chargers

At the cheaper end of the EV charger price range is slow EV chargers. This is the most popular method of charging EVs residentially, with charging speeds for home units typically hovering between 2.3kW and 6kW.

Given the low voltage of these chargers, they’re often used to charge electric vehicles overnight – which is perfect when the vehicles are being used to commute to work, for example.

It wouldn’t be ideal to have cars parked for upward of 6-hour periods to charge in public spaces, so slow EV chargers are rarely found at public charging stations or even public car parks – however they’re typically a great option for consumers given the typical unit cost for one of these chargers is typically around £500 per unit.

Electric car at charging point with digital graphic overlay

Balancing EV charger costs

Having mapped out what type of EV chargers are available in market, the next obvious question is which type of charger is cost-effective for you to acquire?

The first step is determining the total power demands of your fleet, as well as the time you can allocate to EV charging. When considering power demands, identify:

  • The total battery capacity of your individual fleet vehicles, as well as the total amount of vehicles you’d need to be charging at any one time. If you don’t put the right charging infrastructure in place, you could find yourself unable to charge one or more of your vehicles – which could impact profitability if you’re running a commercial fleet.
  • The type of charging connectors your vehicles utilise, and how this compares to the charging points you’re looking to install, as well as those your vehicles will pass by and utilise when driving.

Type 2 EV chargers are compatible with the vast majority of plug-in EVs and are probably a good option for residential charging needs. Larger vehicles with higher battery capacities, however, could be better suited to CCS chargers that are capable of charging at speeds of up to 350kW/H.

Long-term cost considerations

Once you’ve established your power demands and confirmed compatibility, next consider the long-term vs short-term financial benefits associated with the infrastructure purchasing options you’re considering.

Buying just enough equipment to meet your charging needs now is a cost-effective strategy if your demand for power is unlikely to expand in the foreseeable future, however businesses that are looking to scale-up their operations in the coming years may want to consider going for slightly faster charging technology in the interim that will avoid a situation whereby you don’t have enough charging units or capacity to keep all of your vehicles operational as the fleet grows.

For a fuller break down of all of the costs that come with owning an EV fleet, read our insights.

EV charging costs: is there any help available?

One final tip from the team at Fuel Card Services is to explore whether there are any government grants available for businesses that are engaging with EV charging initiatives and who are committed to making their fleet operation more sustainable.

For residential vehicles, the government has implemented an Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme under which the government will subsidise a large percentage (around 75%) of the charging point installation cost – which is a great option for those commuting to work.

For commercial fleets, there are financial incentives created around reducing emissions through electrification, and the government have outlined a full list of vehicles that could be eligible for a grant that covers a percentage of the purchase cost of these vehicles. This could be a huge boost to UK businesses who are looking to reduce their carbon footprints in the coming years.

How could Fuel Card Services help?

Aside from putting the right charging infrastructure in place for your fleet, you could also look to reduce costs on fleet servicing and maintenance. Our range of professional fleet services can help you achieve exactly this, and our product offering includes everything from advanced telematics to a mileage expenses system.

electric charging lane

Electric roads – charging your car while driving

There’s a vision shared by tech industry leaders, environmentalists, and governments around the world to replace our current vehicles and infrastructure with more sustainable electric equivalents.

Closer to home, the UK government is in fact committed to a net-zero carbon emissions transition by 2050. So, electric vehicles are inevitable – but what’s the most effective way of powering them, and could electric roads be viable source of power?

Electric vehicle challenges

The core challenge with powering electric vehicles that we’re already experiencing, and may face for years to come, is battery life. Most electric vehicle batteries on roads today are rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.

These are effective at storing electricity, but the sheer amount of power needed to keep an electric vehicle going for hours is enormous. If we build larger lithium-ion batteries, then we’ll face longer battery charging times, and deplete our natural resource of lithium.

Green Tech Media investigated whether our current reserves of lithium can be scaled to meet the increasing demand for batteries driven by companies like Tesla, who want to introduce ‘Gigafactories’ capable of producing millions of battery units at speed. Their conclusion was ‘not just no, but hell no’.

So, we’ll need a breakthrough in electric battery technology, or an alternative source of energy to guarantee the future of electric car production – which is likely to become more pressing as more legislation is introduced to promote the use of sustainable energy sources. One of those alternative energy sources could be electric roads.

Electric roads explained

The basic premise for electric roads is incredibly simple; the road infrastructure is responsible for supplying electricity to all vehicles using the road at any one time. Typically, this is achieved via either overhead or underground power lines, which transfer power directly to vehicles via inductive coils, or conductive rails.

Within most electric road systems actively used in the world today, overhead powerlines are limited to commercial use, while ground based power systems are estimated to be the most cost-effective by experts.

You can find electric roads in:

  • South Korea – where electric roads were introduced as early as 2013 to provide a wireless power source designed to recharge OLEV buses (electric buses, essentially).
  • Sweden – whereby a ‘dynamic charging’ system was introduced in 2019 that utilises an electrified rail system embedded within 2km of road to charge electric vehicles.

Sweden have outlined a plan and drafted a map to enable national expansion of the electric road system, which is suspected to require electrifying around 20,000km of road in order to meet a target of reducing domestic carbon emissions by 70% (by 2030).

So, electric roads are in fact a reality in the world today. They’re also being considered in the UK.

The UK’s stance on electric roads

The UK government funded a study to gauge how cost effective it would be to implement an overhead electric cable system that powers road-using freight vehicles. They estimated the total cost of this ‘E-highways’ system would amount to £19.3bn, but that it could also pay for itself within 15 years, while drastically cutting carbon emissions.

electric road charging a hybrid truck

For the commercial fleet industry, such a system could have huge repercussions. Fleets that adopt electric technology quickly and mitigate their carbon impacts could avoid the costs brought about by future legislation, such as a potential carbon emissions tax. There are also projects in the works to examine the potential impact of electric roads on consumer vehicles.

Highways England begun considering and testing electric road technology in 2015, in a project that was later cancelled in 2016 due to budget limitations. However, the infrastructure that was examined is very similar to the South Korean technology introduced back in 2013 and could make a resurgence. In Highways England’s system, electric cables buried beneath these roads generate an electromagnetic field, which is absorbed by a coil placed within each electric vehicle to wirelessly transfer power.

EV safety matters, so it’s fortunate that this technology is also proving to be completely safe to pedestrians and road users alike. The total voltage output of this system at surface level is around 1 volt, meaning you wouldn’t feel the electric current even when walking barefoot.

Are electric roads cost effective?

There seems to be a very strong consensus amongst studies that electric road systems would be significantly cheaper to introduce than a national network of charging stations and larger batteries for EVs.

The former could even cost around half the amount, according to findings from the Swedish ERS study we touched on earlier. Obviously, electric vehicles will still need to be equipped with batteries even when using an electric road system. However, the total battery capacity could be reduced by around 80% when compared to a system that solely utilises charging stations.

That’s a huge saving, which could prove to be a sustainable option that mitigates the lithium resource challenges we’re facing, while also proving safe and effective for road users and pedestrians alike. For more insights on this topic, read our article on how the cost of electric cars compares to petrol equivalents.

What does this mean for commercial fleets?

As a commercial fleet operator, you may want to keep your eyes on the latest developments in electrification. Realistically, it’s likely to be a good few years from now (2021) before we see this technology implemented at scale throughout the UK, however businesses that capitalise on the advantages the technology could bring and modernise their operations accordingly could gain an edge over the competition.

In the meantime, fleet operators should take every step possible to become more efficient and save money on fuel costs. That’s where the team at Fuel Card Services can help. We supply fuel cards from a range of market leading brands, across networks covering the whole of the UK. Check out our fuel card offering to see whether your drivers could be paying less each time they stop for diesel or petrol.

There are also efficiencies to be made within fleet servicing, for which we’ve designed a set of services that can make fleet management that little bit easier. From advanced telematics to fuel-pump locator apps, we can help you become more efficient.