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Smart software trial could pave the way for easier installation of EV chargers

The trial by UK Power Networks used AI computer simulation to demonstrate that more than 500 EV chargers could be connected around a single electricity substation in London.

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Trial demonstrated that 10s of thousands of chargers could be easily installed across the UK
Trial demonstrated that 10s of thousands of chargers could be easily installed across the UK

A trial by network operator UK Power Networks has demonstrated that more than 500 electric vehicles (EV) chargers could be connected around a single electricity substation, using latest technology rather than building new cables and substations.

 

The trial used an artificial intelligence (AI) computer simulation to test active response software on a London substation, to automatically move electrical capacity around the network to safely accommodate more low carbon technologies like electric vehicles or heat pumps.

 

Smart grid

 

The trial is a key part of UK Power Networks’ ongoing work on smart grid development, and helping to enable net zero. The company, which is ranked number one in the global Smart Grid Index, forecasts up to 4.5 million electric vehicles in London, the south-east and east of England by 2030.

 

It claims that just one rapid EV charger can use as much electricity capacity as a block of flats, so proactively creating space for new chargers is a key step in enabling the UK’s move to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

 

The simulation was based on a substation in Tooting in south London. The Active Response project processed vast amounts of data and used switches to automatically reconfigure power flows around the network, and efficiently distributed electrical load across the available infrastructure.

 

One of the simulations tested a peak demand scenario in the evening when people are at home cooking, using electric heating and charging electric cars. The system identified a way to unlock 1,000kW of capacity – equivalent to 142 fast chargers – and there was scope for more from other cables.

“To reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, we need to facilitate millions of electric vehicles and heat pumps and work even faster to connect more renewables”

Experts at UK Power Networks believe the software solution could release capacity for 568 additional EV chargers in Tooting alone. There are 195 primary substations like this across London and 1,313 across the south-east and east of England that share similarities, so the software has potential to enable thousands more fast chargers to be connected in other areas. The project team is now preparing to trial the system on the live electricity network.

 

“To reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, we need to facilitate millions of electric vehicles and heat pumps and work even faster to connect more renewables,” said Ian Cameron, head of customer service and innovation at UK Power Networks. “These results are exciting because they show that intelligent innovation can have a multiplier effect and make this future a reality.”

 

Project partners

 

Project partners include IT and business consulting services firm, CGI, and engineering and environmental consultancy, Ricardo Energy and Environment.

 

Sarah Carter, UK business area manager at Ricardo Energy and Environment, said: “We are very pleased to continue to support the UK electricity supply industry in delivering cutting edge innovation projects such as the Active Response project.

 

“They are learning from commissioning state-of-the-art software that processes network data to determine optimal running arrangements and gives distribution network operators and other stakeholders valuable insights into the offline trials – before the project moves into the online trial stage as new controllable power electronic devices and switches are installed on the live network.”

 

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