A consortium of companies lead by IBM has launched a study to evaluate the impact of electric vehicles on the electricity grid in the UK.

In conjunction with EDF Energy, E.On and Imperial Consultants, IBM is to examine how the growth in electric vehicle recharging will affect the electricity networks, and what steps energy companies could take to keep pace with demand. The consortium will also look at what smart technologies will be needed to support the mass market uptake of electric vehicles.

The study is one of three projects that have been launched by the UK’s Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) as part of its £11 million Electrification of Light Vehicles programme. The three projects represent the largest electric vehicle analysis to date in the world.

“Electric vehicles have enormous potential for creating a cleaner transport system to help the UK meet its 2050 carbon reduction targets. However, there is uncertainty over the pace of vehicle development, consumer take up and patterns of usage and charging. It is important we anticipate the likely requirements these developments will have for grid enhancement and the need for an intelligent architecture,” said Jon Bentley, Energy & Environment Partner, IBM Global Business Services.

The study consortium will look at design concepts for the ‘intelligent architecture’ of interconnected data and systems needed to enable local networks of electric vehicle charging points linked to the distribution networks. It will also undertake planning for design changes which will be needed to maintain distribution networks’ effective operation and management.

The UK government has already committed £300 million to the creation of infrastructure for electric plug-in vehicles and projects are already underway in three cities.

“We need to take action now to ensure lead times are put in place for open and interoperable architectures, while allowing time to monitor the positive impact on the electric vehicle market,” said Bentley. “Furthermore, we need to achieve these goals alongside related programmes in smart grids and smart metering, the shift to a renewable generation and the development of smart homes which are already under-way and gaining momentum.”