It began with about 400/500 words and it's grown a bit to just under 4000 words.
Electric Cars & Vans: Parking, Charging and Power Generation.
Since it has been suggested that all diesel and petrol cars and vans be replaced by electric and hybrid cars and vans sometime in the future, then the location of charging points and their availability for the electric only vehicles must be considered. At the moment any person who can own a car can conveniently fill it with fuel at communal filling stations scattered around the country. With electric only vehicles, their convenient charging, the location of charging points and the extra power generation required could be problematic. (When fossil fuels are no longer available, hybrid vehicles will no longer be possible).
Note: The calculations used here for battery charging are simplistic calculations based upon the charging power per charging time which must equal the battery capacity. For example, depending upon the battery technology, to fully charge a 100kWhour capacity battery it needs to be charged at a 10kW power level for ten hours; 100kW for one hour; 200kW for half an hour, etc. A battery that is not ‘empty’ will still require the maximum power input charging rate that the battery design can handle, but for a shorter time period until it is full. The calculations are minimum figures for maximum usage and do not take into account battery technology, charging method and any losses accompanying power generation and distribution infrastructure.
1. Consider. If electrical charging with the convenience of petrol and diesel is not technologically possible:
a. Ideally, each car owner’s living accommodation should have a charging point allocated to their property. Each charging point could have multiple outputs for families with more than one vehicle. For single houses with off-road parking this may not be a problem. The charging system can be connected to the household supply (for long term ‘overnight’ charging) and added to the electricity bill. The alternative could be to install a charging point outside each property resulting in extensive road works and infrastructure.
b. Where there is no off-road parking adjacent to a property, there could be a problem with designated parking spaces (with charging points and payment facilities) causing congestion and maybe conflict, particularly with multiple car-ownership families. Commercial vans could be charged at company premises. Single traders could have a problem with other car-owning family members.
c. With multiple storey accommodation the problem could be insurmountable: 120 flats in a tower block could require 120 minimum designated parking spaces, either underground or surrounding the property or both, each with access to a charging point with either card payment or designated to a particular flat’s electricity supply. Each flat will also have to cater for multiple vehicle ownership per family. If not, then there would be a premium rate for flats with those facilities. If a flat has no charging facilities, and the resident becomes a car owner, would they then have to move to the appropriate accommodation?
d. Communal parking areas, either public or company premises, with each space allocated a charging point could be considered. Where land space is at a premium, multi-storey car parks could be built or modified with each parking bay to have its own charging point and electronic payment facility. This could be inconvenient, forcing people to possibly walk home at night in maybe unsafe areas and putting themselves at risk. This could also incur extra security systems and/or patrols.
e. There could also be a problem with remote communal parking and charging, ensuring that for any car on charge, the electricity used is paid for. There may be a case for some form of ‘locking mechanism’ (either mechanical or some other means) that prevents a driver leaving without paying. Or maybe electronic vehicle recognition linked to a national database - no road tax, charging system locked - and overseas visitors must pre-register.
f. The amount of extra work (a ‘stand-alone’ charger for each parking space with a data link for electronic payment) and raw materials and labour required (copper cabling, road works, power distribution, transformers and pylons, etc.) could be prohibitive. Remote country locations could be a problem.
g. There are about 35 million licensed cars and vans on the UK roads (2016 figures). Will they (in the future of an ‘all electric’ UK) each require access to a dedicated parking space with a ‘long-term’ or ‘over-night’ charging point? What would be the minimum number of charging points required to service this number of vehicles? (Future population growth could see this figure increase considerably). See “DVLA: Vehicle Licensing Statistics: Annual 2016”.
h. On the assumption that all electric cars and vans are fitted with a 30kWh battery (e.g. Nissan LEAF or similar) and charged for seven hours from empty to full from a 230v ‘home’ source, it would require an extra 3.68kW per hour from each domestic supply per vehicle (Nissan's figures). In order to supply 35 million such vehicles for ‘overnight’ charging, the additional national power generating capacity would need to be in the order of 128,800 Megawatts minimum per hour for the charging period (which would reduce as each battery reaches ‘full’ - some sooner than others). At maximum simultaneous usage this would be equivalent to more than 39 Hinkley Point C nuclear power stations at 3,260 Megawatts each. And, of course, the domestic supply cabling to each road/street/district will need to be upgraded to accommodate the extra current drain of 16 Amperes per vehicle (assuming a 30kWh battery). Note: For a 115v domestic supply, this current will be 32 Amperes.
(Some electric vehicle manufacturers are now using batteries that have ten times the capacity of the 30kWh Nissan LEAF battery. See 2. below).
i. If ‘long term’ charging is the only alternative, the car owner may no longer have the flexibility to choose where to charge their vehicle. It would not be beyond the stretch of the imagination for it to become a habit for vehicles to be automatically ‘plugged-in’ (an instant maximum load) at any convenient point after a day’s work whether or not they require charging. This could become an unnecessary power consuming habit, placing an extra ‘instant’ load on the power generation and distribution network. If a car is parked in a charging bay and is seen not connected to a charging point, this could result in conflict with a car owner whose car needs to be charged.
It should be noted that in the above ‘overnight’ charging scenario there is no government scheme to mandate dedicated charging facilities in all new-build housing or to modify existing housing.
2. If new technology is introduced that would allow ‘instant’ full charging - ten to fifteen minutes - with the same convenience of use as petrol and diesel, most of the parking and ‘home’ charging problems listed above could disappear. This could entail replacing or converting existing filling station forecourts with fast electrical charging technology.
a. Fast charging, (in the order of ten to fifteen minutes for a full charge), will require new battery technology and a suitably rated charger. A fifteen minute full charge will require a charger rated at approximately four times the capacity (kWh) of the battery to be charged.
b. Some batteries being developed have a power capacity of over 300kWh requiring higher power charging systems if charging time is to be kept short: 1,200kW minimum for a fifteen minute full charge which will require a charger to supply 1,500 amperes charging current (at 800 volts - see below) with possibly extra power for battery cooling.
c. So-called “Ultra-Fast” chargers, (“20 minutes for 300km range”), have been developed and are already being installed with power outputs of allegedly 350kW with a voltage and current output of 800 volts and 350 amperes (which actually calculates to 280kW!): “Elektrek - November 29, 2016”.
d. According to the above “Elektrek” article, five car manufacturers are installing or have installed 400 of these “Ultra-Fast” 350kW charging stations across Europe. The extra electrical capacity required to supply these chargers at an assumed maximum simultaneous usage - ‘rush-hour’ conditions - is 140 Megawatts minimum. Spreading the chargers ‘across Europe’ will spread the load and ‘hide’ the problem of future power requirements for total electric conversion. It is claimed that “wind and solar power are being installed” giving the impression that that is all that is required as an ‘add-on’ to make the system viable. This appears to be a ‘PR stunt’ with little consideration to overall power requirements, generation and infrastructure for an ‘all electric’ future.
e. Assuming that future UK vehicles are ‘all-electric’ (cars & vans only!), then a filling station of twelve pumps converted to electric “Ultra-Fast” charging (350kW plus per charging point), would then require cabling and power distribution to handle a minimum of 4.2 Megawatts. At 350 amperes per charging point (see 2c. above) it will require distribution cabling to a single forecourt to be rated at 4,200 amperes minimum to allow all twelve charging points to be in maximum use at the same time. The more charging points the greater the current required. To reduce the distribution current, a transformer could be installed and supplied by high voltage (low current) overhead pylons for each individual forecourt or charging station. The alternative is extensive road works to install high current cabling - or perhaps both.
f. In 2016 there were 8,476 ‘forecourts’ in the UK: “UKPIA Statistical Review 2017” page 33. For the sake of simplicity, assume that each forecourt has four dual output pumps - eight pumps - giving a total of 67,808 pumps nationwide. If they are all replaced to enable electric “Ultra-Fast” charging at 350kW each, then it would require an extra power generating capacity of 23,733 Megawatts minimum. This is equivalent to over seven Hinkley Point C nuclear power stations (at 3,260 Megawatts each) - one of which has yet to be built. Scaling the above system down to a more ‘realistic’ two 350kW (large vehicle) and six 120kW fast chargers (small vehicle - 30kWh battery - 15 minute charge) would still require the equivalent of nearly four Hinkley Point C nuclear power stations. These simplistic calculations assume zero losses from the generating station to the point of use and maximum usage during ‘rush-hour’ conditions. These figures do not include the power required for some ‘overnight’ charging (see section 1. above) that may also take place.
g. The above figures indicate the power required for a theoretical maximum usage situation. Reducing the power generation to an assumed ‘practical’ usage scenario could allow ‘bottleneck’ situations to occur when there is unexpected high demand.
h. An enforced limited power generating capacity (due to either financial or technological limitations) could mean the institution of forecourt power sharing and time-band allocation systems. This will not be very convenient or popular if there are conflicting and unexpected high demands at local forecourts connected to the same distribution network and if the forecourts and energy supply are owned and controlled by different companies as they are at present.
i. All the above seems to suggest that there will be a problem with sufficient power generation for this ‘electric cars and vans’ proposal. If this is so, then why are some electric vehicle manufacturers appearing to concentrate on high performance vehicles and 350kW (or more) chargers? With the limited electrical power generating technology that exists, now or in the immediate future, this approach by some of the electric vehicle manufacturers seems pointless and inconsiderate. Seemingly to distract the public and those in power from the overall problem - or maybe it’s a ploy to make money from the rich and gullible ‘while the sun shines’. (Or until fossil fuels run out or maybe until the realisation that sufficient electrical power generation might be beyond reach).
Developing new battery technology to be safe, charge quickly, environmentally friendly and inexpensive is desirable and essential, but irrelevant with respect to the energy supply required. Whatever battery technology the future brings, it will not change the total energy required to fully charge a battery, whether it is for five minutes or five hours. The shorter the time required to fully charge a battery, the greater the load on the supply and distribution network and vice versa. The laws of physics are paramount.
To avoid the extra energy generation required, with associated pollution from any fossil fuels used, it would be more sensible to make it incumbent on vehicle manufacturers to produce low to ‘zero’ emission internal combustion vehicles of better design with more efficient particulate filters and noxious by-product prevention together with corrective technology for existing vehicles. This will only be a short term solution when considering the finite availability of fossil fuels. An alternative could be to develop a hydrogen economy (‘zero’ pollution: water exhaust only). But a hydrogen economy - fuel cell or internal combustion - has its problems with the amount of energy required to be generated (with any associated pollution) to extract and process the hydrogen suitable for transport and convenient usage. The energy used for extraction will always be greater than the net energy obtained from hydrogen combustion. A plentiful, stable clean energy source could possibly make this an appealing option. However, new research suggests that there may be a possibility to extract hydrogen in situ... See the New Scientist: 3rd August 2017 “Nano aluminium offers fuel cells on demand - just add water.”
Given the rough and simplistic calculations above, it would be unwise to concentrate solely on the electric vehicle solution unless there is a stable, continuous, clean source of electrical energy generation such as, for example, nuclear fusion power. But that seems to be a pipe-dream in many people’s minds. Wind, tidal and solar power can be developed to their maximum, but at best they are seasonal and weather conditions dependent. Tidal power must take into account the future effects of Global Temperature Change that will change the tide levels. With solar power the geographical latitude must also be taken into account. Wind power would seem to be the more sustainable method (there always seems to be wind somewhere - at least in the UK!). A wind turbine can generate about 2 to 3.5 Megawatts depending upon wind speed. In the ‘fast charging’ scenario (see section 2. above) this would be equivalent to 11,806 extra turbines for the required 23,611 Megawatts at 2 Megawatts per turbine (taking the lower wind speed figure). If ‘fast charging’ is not feasible (see section 1. above), then the number of extra turbines, at 2 Megawatts output each, would be 64,400. These figures are roughly equivalent to 1650 turbines per Hinkley Point C nuclear power station.
It is suggested that tidal, wind and solar (in the UK) may not be capable alone of providing the additional peak power required - 23,611 Megawatts minimum* - by the politically inspired suggestion that “all new cars and vans will be electric (or hybrid) after 2040” or that “all new cars after 2030 shall be electric”. But, one supposes, ‘every little helps’.
*(see 2f. above - this figure is a minimum figure and needs to be refined to take traffic flow and demand and also power generation and distribution losses into account)
The major problem with the ideas that “all new cars and vans shall be electric (or hybrid) after 2040” or that “all new cars after 2030 shall be electric”, is that the politicians have not thought it through or do not have the education to understand what unbiased experts (scientists, engineers and other non-vested interests) are trying to say. With the impending running out of fossil fuels and the disincentive for their continued use, no politician (or any government) appears to be publically considering, with a sense of urgency, developing and financing research for a stable long-term clean energy source, for example, nuclear fusion power (assuming it is feasible). Other non-finite power sources are weather and location dependent, all of which will require the appropriate storage technology to offset the inevitable down-times when zero electricity is being generated.
However, there is one other energy source that has not been fully explored in the UK. It promises to be clean, less polluting to the environment and theoretically unlimited and that is Geothermal power. The geology of the UK will need to be examined to determine if it is viable to produce the energy required for this electric vehicle scenario.
But, in the long term, it would seem that the future of electricity generation in the UK may have to depend on a ‘mixture’ of all the known methods of generation.
Most politicians, at the best of times, appear to be not technologically minded and are easy prey to high pressure sales and, er, ‘lobbying’ from the manufacturers of this “Wonderful new electric car - it can accelerate 0 to 60 mph in less than three seconds! Wow!” sort of approach, which, in the long term, will be irrelevant without the necessary power supply generation and distribution infrastructure in place. Polluting fuels will still have to be used to power electricity generating stations in the absence of sufficient wind, tidal, solar, geothermal and nuclear power (fusion or fission). Or maybe the politicians are aware of these problems, but are choosing to keep quiet for their own personal, political and financial reasons.
The best that some UK politicians seem to be able to come up with is that all households should install solar panels nationwide with battery storage which can then be fed into the National Grid. This suggestion does have some merit and needs to be considered in more detail and pursued and instituted where possible. But, there seems to be no awareness in the political spectrum about the required amount of solar cell and battery raw materials (and the energy-cost of manufacture), how and where the batteries are to be stored to satisfy safety regulations, servicing and repair of the systems and who will pay for any property installations and modifications. Then there is the small matter of developing training courses and finding the right quality and number of people to be trained for installation, servicing and repair of all systems, after Brexit. The move to vehicle electrification is EU-wide - if not world-wide - and the human resource (supply and training) will be at a premium. The movement of qualified personnel between countries will be difficult to stop whether or not Brexit becomes a reality. There will be no place for so-called ‘austerity’ in this scenario.
The solar panel suggestion needs to be examined in more detail with actual figures indicating the cost per household, the number and types of households affected (some may not be suitable) and the expected yield and reliability of electrical power generated. By its nature, it may not be able to provide a stable and constant input to the National Grid since it will depend upon the variable energy consumption of each household, the time of day, and, of course, the weather and the geographical latitude. In the UK, the average amount of electricity produced by 20% efficient solar panels is approximately 22 Watts per square metre: 91 square metres for a 2kW electric fire. See “Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air”.
Assuming south facing panels in midsummer at midday with zero cloud cover, the maximum power produced (at the London latitude) will be 40 Watts per square metre. Or 81.5 million square metres equivalent to a Hinkley Point C nuclear power station.
However, the main proposal only seems to be considering replacing petrol and diesel cars and vans in the UK as a means of reducing pollution. The world’s transport systems (including the UK) will still require road haulage, air, sea and rail transport and most will still require the use of fossil fuels, either directly or indirectly, with the continuing attendant pollution.
There is also the small problem that, with present-day technology, the increased pollution generated by the extra demand on the country’s electrical generating capacity that still has to use fossil fuels, may be ‘scoring an own goal’. The extra pollution could possibly be an amount that exceeds the pollution advantage gained by the replacement of petrol and diesel cars and vans.
It should be noted that there is not one Death Certificate giving the cause of death as ‘air pollution’ in the UK when considering the claim that x-number of premature deaths per year are due to this factor, although air pollution undoubtedly does play a part. The jury is still out on the ‘exact’ figure which ranges from 7,000 to 40,000 plus, depending on how the statistics are interpreted. A fact that politicians and some media seem to revel in - they can choose any figure they like for their own purposes.
The vehicle ‘air pollution problem’ seems to be highlighted as a result of human activity in towns, cities and major roads, and perhaps, may be exaggerated by political and business interests using media inspired photographs from around the world. These photographs often show pollution in various cities that reminds one of the days of ‘Smog’ in 1950s UK (when there were approximately a tenth of the number of small vehicles compared to 2016 and 14 million less population (1955)). The UK ‘Smog’ appeared to be mainly the result of pollution from domestic fossil fuel and biomass burning exacerbated by static weather conditions. Poorly filtered vehicle exhaust particulates and gasses also played a part. It should also be noted that the vehicle emitted gases allegedly responsible for ‘thousands of early deaths’ (nitrogen oxides, etc.) are invisible and do not, by themselves, constitute a ‘Smog’. In the ‘Smog-laden’ 1950s, there were no diesel private cars and small vans. All were petrol driven. A more efficient public transport system meant that private vehicle ownership was kept low. Perhaps there is a clue here.
As mentioned above, it should be a matter of urgency to force internal combustion engine manufacturers to reduce these gasses (and particulates) to a safe level by better engine design and corrective technology for existing vehicles. This may be cheaper than installing or constructing electricity generating and charging systems and the associated infrastructure just for the use of electric vehicles - that is, until the fossil fuels run out.
But, notwithstanding the seemingly impractical ‘all electric’ future, (as far as cars and vans are concerned!), it is still nonetheless desirable that all pollution, from whatever human source or requirement, is reduced by whatever practical means possible.
On a separate note and not related to electrical power generation and distribution, is the effect an ‘all-electric’ UK would have on overseas visitors. Would non-electric vehicles be banned? If not, where and how would they re-fuel? Would overseas visitors be forced to discard their non-electric vehicle and hire an electric vehicle? Also, with a future increase in electric vehicle usage what steps will be taken to protect non-electric vehicle users during the ‘change-over’ period from rising fuel costs due to the resulting scarcity of conventional filling-stations?
And, for the ‘sting in the tail’, consider the fact that all of the extra electrical energy (and dedicated infrastructure) required for the above electric vehicle scenario is in addition to the increasing electrical energy required for other purposes. These will include heating, lighting, manufacturing, commerce, food production, entertainment, etc. All of which are necessary to maintain and service an out of control world birth rate with ever more local populations of increasing density. At the moment the world population is about 7.5 billion. It is expected to level off at about 11 billion towards the end of this century according to Hans Rosling - TGS.ORG.
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(25th June 2018)