Team has resource to estimate the impact of electric vehicles

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A resource to estimate the impact that electric vehicles will have on the national grid has been developed by a team at Northumbria University.

Dr Ghanim Putrus, reader in electrical power engineering in the School of Computing, Engineering and Information Sciences, led the project to create a tool that allows policy makers to predict and prepare for the increased use of electric cars and how it will affect the power network.

The new Grid Capacity Calculator is said to consider future electricity needs by taking a measurement of an area’s existing energy consumption and then calculating the likely future demand for, and impact of, having increasing numbers of electric cars plugged in for recharging.

It was developed through a collaboration involving Northumbria University and Charge your Car project, a government programme, which is currently installing electric vehicle charging points across North East England.

According to the university, the North East has been highlighted as the UK’s first designated low-carbon economic area (LCEA) and there are plans to create a local infrastructure to support electric vehicles, including the installation of 1,000 electric car charging points in the region by 2013.

The impact on the electrical distribution network will be more complex and difficult to analyse when the increased use of electric vehicles is combined with the expected increase in other technologies designed to reduce carbon output, such as micro-generators and heat pumps in homes and buildings.

By allowing users to assess the impact of electric vehicles on an area’s grid in the presence of other low-carbon technologies, the new tool will enable informed planning of the infrastructure for electric vehicles.

Dr Putrus said: ‘The resource will help policy makers, developers and network operators to analyse the impact of electric vehicles in the presence of micro generators and low-carbon technologies.

‘Any electricity-usage scenario can be tested using this tool, giving a picture of what can happen to existing grid infrastructure and helping to plan future power networks or smart grids.’

The tool is the result of work involving Dr Sara Walker, School of the Built and Natural Environment; and Dr David Johnston and Edward Bentley, School of Computing, Engineering and Information Sciences.

The team is currently discussing a follow-up project with Charge your Car, which will develop the tool further to allow analysis of ‘smart charging’ of electric vehicles.

The team is also involved in a related European project (E-mobility NSR) addressing ‘smart grids solutions’ for future power networks and other joint projects on electrical vehicles with the School of Design.