Integrating Smart Grids and Electric Vehicles

Energy laboratories, utilities, and energy pilot projects worldwide have, by and large, found that electric vehicles (EVs) can be integrated into power grids in ways that benefit communities and vehicle owners while improving grid reliability and resilience.

In the UK a ban on new petrol and diesel cars, originally planned for 2040, has been brought forward to 2030. By 2035, all new cars and vans will have to have zero emissions at the tailpipe. It is part of a plan to eradicate the UK’s contribution to climate change and reach zero emissions by 2050.

This is not a UK only initiative though. In America, over a dozen states have committed to only sell electric cars by 2035. The transition from petrol- to electric-powered transportation is set to further accelerate, but this shift will still hopefully happen with sufficient lead time for utilities and grid operators to prepare the grid to balance the coming increase in demand.

When paired with upgraded “smart grids,” EVs can reduce peak demand, lowering utility operational costs and stabilising the power system by balancing supply and demand on short notice. But… one of the biggest concerns is managing demand during peak periods of use, and ensuring that everyone who has access to electricity and plug-in vehicles can draw enough current to charge their batteries.



Electric cars and trucks can be integrated into power grids in ways that benefit communities, vehicle owners, and utility shareholders. The power they store in their batteries can provide what is known as a ‘rolling battery’ (while they are not in use), storing excess energy generated during off-peak periods and returning it when demand spikes.

Electricity demand can also be managed via smart charging. If a commuter’s car is plugged in throughout the evening, smart charging can ensure it only draws power when demand is lower, reducing strain on the grid.

These sorts of grid services can lower electricity bills and help grid operators handle unexpected peaks and troughs in electricity generation and usage and pay EV owners for turning their vehicles into distributed energy resources.

Smart grids use two-way digital communication to enable the electricity industry to better manage energy delivery and transmission. They are capable of providing real-time information and enable the nearby quick balancing of supply and demand.

The University of Exeter has opened a Smart Grid research centre, to investigate the challenges and opportunities of converting the conventional power network towards a low carbon “Smart Grid”, capable of efficiently and resiliently transporting electrical energy from renewable sources, to its consumers.

The Centre is aligned to the University’s Strategy 2030, i.e., to lead meaningful actions against the climate emergency and ecological crisis, through its work to create Net-Zero solutions worldwide.

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