UK National Grid Proposes Fast Charger Network

Image: Shell UK

Once again demonstrating that the U.K. is far ahead of the U.S. when it comes to EV infrastructure, the National Grid has plans for installing a rapid charging network across the country, connected directly to the high voltage grid.

Each location would have up to 350 kW capacity, allowing multiple vehicles to charge at high speed. Putting that in perspective, the average U.K. home uses about 350 kWh in a month – at full capacity, one of these locations will use that much in just one hour. The goal is to be able to deliver an 80% charge to a long range EV in a matter of a few minutes- not much different to re-filling a gas tank.

Aside from Tesla’s, current EVs max charging rate is 50 kW (that recharge may take 30 minutes), but many of the ones expected in the next few years will be capable of using more. Jaguar’s new I-Pace EV, expected later this year, has announced support for 100 kW fast charging and Porsche’s Mission E may go even higher. Of course, they also have larger batteries than current generation (non-Tesla) EVs, so the extra speed will be offset by that. An 80% charge on a 90 kWh battery at a 100 kW charger will take just under an hour (assuming 80% charger efficiency). Chevy’s Bolt estimates adding about 90 miles of range per hour on a 50kW charger.

The network was estimated to cost around £1B (US$1.4B) to create. Graeme Cooper, project director of electric cars at National Grid, told the Financial Times: “It’s the infrastructure that’s key, it’s about future-proofing the network so it has the capacity to charge cars as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

The chargers would need to be installed in motorway services, where drivers need the speed more than usual, and which aligns well with the routes for the existing power distribution network as well. While daily commute driving for most people can easily be handled by charging at home, or in the parking lot at work, long distance trips need regular access to these rapid chargers to make them practical for most drivers.

Right now, the National Grid has no plans to create a network of chargers for public use though. It is just highlighting the potential.

Gas Station Chargers

Image: Shell UK
The Automated and Electric Vehicles bill, currently making its way through the House of Lords, would add requirements on large fuel station operators and services operators to provide EV chargers.

Both Shell and BP are already installing rapid (50 kW) chargers in some of their locations. While gas stations may not be the best place for public charging infrastructure (hanging out on a forecourt for 30 minutes doesn’t appeal much), mandating more chargers will help increase acceptance of EVs, and reduce the perceived range anxiety. More charging locations can only be a good thing.

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