Distribution network operator UK Power Networks (UKPN) is to launch trials to assess the requirements of a smart charging market for electric vehicles.

The project, called SmartCar, has seen independent research commissioned which intends to inform how network operators can avoid an increase in peak demand through rewarding electric car drivers who charge outside of busy times.

UKPN says this will reduce the demands of charging ‘clusters’ of cars on local electricity infrastructure and keep energy bills lower than if new infrastructure was built unnecessarily.

Smart charging was mandated by law last summer under the Automated and Electric Vehicle Bill, an act which mandates that all electric vehicle charging points installed are ‘smart’, essentially enabling them to receive signals and react to them.

That measure is to be crucial for the country’s EV charging infrastructure moving forward with some concerns remaining over the potential impact EV demand could have on local grids.

The project is also significant from a DNO perspective, as the country’s network operators respond to parliamentary requests to do their part in accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles. Earlier this month the DNOs committed to cut the red tape surrounding EV charger installations, introducing a new, standardised process for properties to apply for grid connection approval.

Head of innovation at UK Power Networks, Ian Cameron, said smart charging is about promoting choice for consumers and offering incentives to change their charging patterns.

“We believe smart charging will enable us to support the uptake of electric vehicles across our networks at the lowest possible cost to customers.

“However, incentives from networks will not by themselves change people’s charging habits – it will need a mix of lower energy costs from retailers plus the reduced network cost incentives,” he added.

“There are several ways that we as electricity networks could approach the challenge of electric vehicles, one of which could be by installing failsafe technical network protection technology. We listened to what the industry and stakeholders told us and set out on an alternative path. It’s the more challenging approach, but it’s also the right thing to do by our customers.”

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