Clear action urged to ensure EV shift benefits energy system

Electric vehicles (EVs) will need low-carbon power and smart charging to achieve their full potential ahead of the UK Government’s ban on the sale of petrol and diesel engines in 2040, according to the Renewable Energy Association (REA).

Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced the EV move as part of Downing Street’s attempts to tackle air pollution under its clean air policy.

James Court, Head Policy and External Affairs at the REA, said: “EVs are a vital part of the future energy system, with the potential to improve air quality, decarbonise transport and optimise the UK’s energy infrastructure.

“There’s a risk, however, that without clear government action, we could have many more EVs and fail in those goals.”

UK follows in France’s footsteps

Court added: “We need smart vehicle charging and price reflective tariffs if the future electric fleet is to be a huge benefit and not a hindrance to our grid.

“There is talk of the need for additional power stations to deal with the increase of EVs, yet they could actually optimise the generation we already have.

By using electricity at night or less busy periods during the day EVs can smooth out peaks in demand, but this is reliant on government policy and regulators.”

Speaking a day after Gove’s announcement, Ben van Beurden – Chief Executive at oil giant Shell – predicted that a surge in the use of EVs could lead to the peak in demand for oil being reached before 2030.

“Even if the UK, France and the Western world in general will all go to 100 percent electric vehicles, that would be great, but that wouldn't be enough... We still have less advanced economics that cannot do that switch,” he pointed out.

Need for advances in battery technology

Gove’s announcement of the ban on petrol and diesel vehicles came as after Business Energy Secretary Greg Clark also launched the £246 million Faraday Challenge to develop battery innovations.

Commenting on the launch of the funding, Emma Pinchbeck – Executive Director at trade body RenewableUK – said: “The energy sector agrees that a clean, flexible and modern energy system is the future, a future which relies on a clear vision from Government, working in partnership with businesses.

“The advent of battery storage is the missing puzzle piece which will allow us to maximise the potential of our world-beating renewable energy resources here in the UK.”

> Find out more about the Faraday Challenge