Opinion | Jonathan Murray, Director of Policy, Zemo Partnership & lead convenor Electric Vehicle Energy Taskforce > The dreadful war in Ukraine has added an urgent, new imperative for us to transition as fast as possible from the use of fossil energy in order to avoid revenues from oil and gas sales contributing to Russia’s ability to prosecute the assault.
At least the solution to this new, immediate problem is well aligned to the longer term imperative to move to low – and ultimately zero – carbon energy.
Accelerating the electric transition in transport is one of the most important ways we can tackle these existential challenges. At the end of March, the Electric Vehicle Energy Taskforce – the multi-stakeholder, cross-sectoral collaboration which is convened by Zemo Partnership – produced its latest report – ‘Charging the Future: Drivers for Success 2035’.
The Taskforce brings together – for the first time – major players in the energy and transport sectors to develop a ‘whole system’ approach to the challenges and opportunities arising from our move to electric vehicles.
The Taskforce’s new report says that in order to meet the objectives set out in the Sixth Carbon Budget, by 2035 electricity demand from the transport sector will rise to 55 TWh per year, making up 14% of total UK demand and equivalent to the electricity now consumed by 18 million homes.
This is clearly a major structural change; we need to make sure it happens, of course, but we also need to make sure it happens in a way that maximises efficiencies across the whole system. For example, by 2035, we’re going to have much more intermittent, renewable energy. We can reduce the number of wind turbines and solar panels that we’ll need and the investment required to reinforce the electricity network if we charge in a ‘smart’ way – taking in electricity when it’s abundant and, ideally, using the large battery storage capacity of our full fleet of EVs to supply electricity for other uses when it’s short.
Of course, we need to optimise our future energy system incorporating electric transport but we also need to make sure the transition happens as fast as possible. In order to do this, we need to take people – particularly vehicle drivers – along with us.
Modelling work by the EV Energy Taskforce, published in its latest report, identifies the number of public chargepoints (or, rather, a range of numbers) that will be required to meet user needs. The number – just short of 500,000 (in the central case) – is based on the presupposition that we install the right kinds of chargers in the right places.
A significant number of public chargers will be required by both private and fleet drivers without their own off-street parking. The Taskforce anticipates that their charging needs will be primarily met through a combination of on-street charging and local rapid-charging hubs. The cost of away-from-home charging will become an increasing focus of attention; higher throughput charging locations could benefit from lower costs per kW delivered so may be able to offer lower prices. While the ability of on-street, slow chargers to incorporate ‘smart charging’ opportunities could be attractive.
For all drivers, including those who mainly charge at home a network of rapid (and ultra-rapid) chargers is already developing fast on our motorways and major road networks. By 2035 the Taskforce projects that 60,000 en route rapid chargepoints will be needed along the strategic road network, more than 10 times the number in place today.
Developing this infrastructure in the right way (and ahead of when it’s needed, so we can retain consumer confidence) is now the major challenge for the electric transition in road transport. The Taskforce’s report provides a good blueprint for the route ahead.
The Electric Vehicle Energy Taskforce will be holding two webinars during Green Infrastructure Week, focusing on specific aspects of the recent report.
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