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  • Mar 1, 2023

  • 7 min read


Can the grid cope with the uptake of EVs?

The popularity of electric vehicles is growing as more people learn about their benefits. But with this increase in uptake comes a new challenge for the energy grid: can it cope with all of these new electric vehicles? Let's take a look at this question in more detail.

Why is the UK moving towards electric cars so quickly?

The UK is one of the leading countries in Europe when it comes to electric car ownership and usage. The mass uptake is happening for many reasons, including:

  • The UK government’s commitment to reduce emissions and tackle climate change: The UK's move towards electric cars is in part being driven by the government's goal to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This is reflected by the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030. Electric cars produce far fewer carbon emissions than traditional petrol or diesel vehicles, making them a key part of the UK's decarbonisation strategy. With advances in battery technology making electric cars more affordable and reliable than ever before, it's likely that we'll see even more drivers making the switch to electric vehicles in the years to come.
  • The falling cost of electric vehicles:The cost of electric vehicles has been falling in recent years, thanks to advances in technology and economies of scale for manufacturers. This is making them much more affordable for consumers, which is one of the key factors driving their uptake.
  • Improvements in public charging infrastructure: In order for electric cars to be viable for long journeys, there needs to be a reliable and widespread public charging infrastructure. The UK government has been investing heavily in this area in recent years, with over 42,000 public charge points now available across the country. Plus, there are ways that drivers can find chargers in their local area. Community charging connects electric car drivers with people who rent out their EV home chargers. This is making it much easier for people to own and use electric cars, as they can be confident that they'll be able to recharge when they need to.
  • The increasing cost of fuelling a petrol or diesel car: As the cost of petrol and diesel continues to rise, electric cars are becoming increasingly appealing to motorists. Electric vehicles are much cheaper to "fuel" than traditional petrol or diesel cars, as they don't require expensive fossil fuels to get you from A to B. You can actually get around on as little as 2.4p per mile when you use an EV specific tariff and charge at home overnight.

It’s all coming together to create the right conditions for electric car uptake in the UK. The mass adoption of EVs is underway but can the grid cope with electric cars and the surge in electricity demand?

Can the energy grid support more charging?

Absolutely! As the number of electric vehicles on the roads continues to grow, there will be an increasing demand for charging points and electricity consumption. This poses the question of whether the UK’s current energy grid can cope with this additional demand.

It's important to remember that the electricity grid is designed to meet peaks in demand, such as during winter evenings when everyone is using their heating. This means that there’s already significant spare capacity in the system, which can be used to accommodate the needs of electric car charging.

The way electric vehicles are typically charged means that they're unlikely to put a significant strain on the national grid. Electric car owners tend to charge their vehicles overnight when demand for electricity is at its lowest. This helps to even out peaks in demand and makes it much easier for the grid to cope.

With Intelligent Octopus Go, you can take advantage of these super cheap overnight tariffs. Use the Octopus Energy app to set how much you'd like to charge up your EV, and by what time – and we'll handle the rest. Intelligent Octopus Go pairs with your EV or charger to optimise your charging to the very greenest times, and always at a super cheap rate.

Not everyone charges their car at the same time, so there's likely to be even more flexibility in the system. V2G (vehicle-to-grid) technology also adds to this flexibility. With V2G, it's possible for electric car owners to send surplus electricity back to the grid when demand is high.

It's also worth noting that the electricity grid is constantly evolving. With the growth in renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, the grid is becoming cleaner and more efficient. This means that it will be better able to cope with the demands of electric vehicle charging in the future.

How high is the demand for electricity in the UK?

The national grid's current demand stands at 334.2 TWh. TWh stands for "terawatt-hour," which is a unit of energy that’s equal to putting out one trillion watts for one hour. This means that the UK would need to increase its electricity production by around 100TWh to meet the demands of electric vehicles. This is a big increase, but it is doable, especially when you consider that almost 40% of electricity will come from renewable sources by 2030.

Growth in renewable energy sources, the closure of coal-fired power plants, and improvements in energy efficiency and EV technology mean that the UK's electricity system is becoming cleaner, more efficient, and better able to meet the needs of electric vehicles.

With plans in place to increase renewable energy generation and phase out petrol and diesel cars, the UK is well on track to have a cleaner, greener and more sustainable transport system.

The bottom line

The UK's efforts to switch to electric cars are admirable. Electric vehicles produce far fewer carbon emissions than traditional petrol or diesel cars, making them a key part of the UK's fight against climate change.

The good news is that the UK's national grid is capable of handling the increased number of electric vehicles. While there will be some challenges, overall the grid is expected to be able to cope. So, the future of electric cars in the UK is looking bright.

If you're thinking about going electric, take a look at our selection of electric vehicles today to find your perfect match.