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Electric vehicles can play a key role in stabilizing the grid.


Electric vehicles can play a key role in stabilizing the grid. Subscribe to Electric Vehicle News Bitesize Podcast for FREE to hear more!

The UK’s growing electric vehicle fleet could play a key role in supporting the grid, research from Imperial suggests.

The research, led by Cormac O’Malley from the IDLES project at Imperial College London, demonstrates how network operators can unlock the potential of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology amid uncertainty about Electric Vehicle charging patterns.

Smart V2G chargers allow power stored in Electric Vehicle batteries to be sent back to the grid when needed, making the vehicle a flexible asset that can be controlled to adapt to unexpected changes in power supply or demand.

Such fluctuations are expected to become more common as we move to grids that rely more and more on intermittent energy sources like wind and solar.

Electric cars offer a promising alternative, O’Malley says, thanks in large part to their relative abundance; as many as 20 million electric cars are expected to be in the UK by the early 2030s driving on the road.

The use of EVs in flexibility services has so far been hampered by uncertainty about the number of vehicles connected to the grid and the degree of flexibility that an aggregated fleet can provide at any given time.

In this work, for the first time, a comprehensive framework for planning Electric Vehicle flexibility with clear delivery guarantees is created, providing security for system operators and making it easier to compare Electric Vehicle flexibility with fossil fuel generators.

To characterize Electric Vehicle travel patterns, the researchers simulated the UK electricity system in 2030 using real-world data from more than 25,000 UK charging points. The results show that by using the developed framework, each V2G charger can reduce grid operating costs by £6,300 per annum and reduce CO2 emissions by more than 37 tonnes.

Electric vehicles offer a solution that is not only much less expensive than traditional providers of flexibility services, but also far more environmentally friendly because you cut out the emissions created when, for example, you burn more gas to balance the grid,” Cormac explains.

“While it’s not possible to control or to know precisely the number of vehicles connected to the grid at any time, using this model, we can ensure that grid operators can access a reliable source of inexpensive and environmentally friendly flexibility services. This is good for Electric Vehicle owners as well because they will get paid to provide these services.”

The research is part of Imperial’s Integrated Development of Low Carbon Energy Systems Programme, a five-year program that aims to provide the evidence needed for a cost-effective and safe transition to a low-carbon future.

Funded by EPSRC and industrial partners, the programme brings together researchers from across the Faculties of Engineering and Natural Sciences and the Imperial College Business School.

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