Experts at the advisory firm KPMG believe about £100bn of investment will be required before 2030 if the UK is to hit projections of about 20m-30m electric cars on the road as soon as 2040. National Grid, the FTSE 100 electricity and gas network, believes there could be far more than that – potentially up to 36m – more than the entire number of cars now in use. Today there are about 620,000 hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric cars in the UK, a fraction of the 34.9m vehicles on the road. They make up about 6% of total sales, but ownership is increasing. Sales last year were about 21% higher than the year before, according to figures from the trade body, the SMMT – although there a signs that cuts in subsidies are slowing that growth. Graeme Cooper, a National Grid executive responsible for electric vehicle infrastructure, said time is running out. The Committee on Climate Change, an advisory body to the government, wants between 30% and 70% of cars to be electric by 2030. “That’s less than 11 years. We need to think really logically now about the infrastructure, so we stand half a chance of making it towards this future.” However, the public charging network is scattergun, with different companies taking differing approaches to investment, and leaving some areas with patchy coverage. Power plugs are also inconsistent, and often incompatible between different models of car. The National Infrastructure Commission, which advises the government, has said that charging an electric car should be made at least as easy as filling up a conventional vehicle, and suggested the government subsidise charging points in areas where the market will not deliver. Aside from Hinkley, Britain’s nuclear power renaissance has stalled, with Japanese industrial giants Toshiba and Hitachi ditching plans to build nuclear plants here. That raises the risk of a growing fleet of electric cars being powered by fossil fuels, such as gas turbines. Ministers also need to work out how to attract investors who will be willing to pump cash into the network of huge batteries that will likely be needed to store renewable electricity generated by wind and solar, so it can be deployed when required. This is a further challenge to National Grid, as it could be cut out of the equation, with power generated, stored and deployed more locally, rather than relying on the Grid’s national transmission network. For competition reasons, National Grid and other network operators are not currently allowed to own battery storage, but the FTSE 100 giant argues the restriction should be lifted so it can help meet the country’s changing demands.
Times 12th May 2019 read more »