UK's National Grid supports 2030 petrol/diesel car ban

UK Traffic
CC BY 2.0 Domenic Alves/ Flickr

The electricity grid can handle a ban, ten years earlier than law makers are aiming for.

When I wrote about flat-lining energy demand and an apparent utility freak out, a debate quickly kicked off in the comments about whether or not rising electric car usage would put a strain on the grid and require increased generating capacity.

In the UK, at least, National Grid—the company responsible for managing the country's electricity network—has come down firmly on the side of 'no'. In fact, as reported by The Guardian, the company is so confident in their ability to handle the increased demand (which a spokesperson described to law makers as "no problem at all"), that they are taking an official position advocating for a 2030 ban on all new petrol and diesel cars. This date is significant, because it's a full decade earlier than the government's current plans for a phase out. The spokesperson also told parliament that the grid could handle as much as 9,000,000 electric cars by 2030, up from only 130,000 at present.

The reasons for this confidence is simple. While electric cars will indeed create significant demand for electricity—a good reason to ride bikes and buses and trains, walk, and telecommute btw—they will not all be charged at the same time, and often will be plugged in overnight when other demand is low. Add to that the fact that energy storage is increasingly being used to even out demand on the grid, and it's not hard to see how the grid could ramp up to manage such a transition.

Now, between bike superhighways, electric buses and taxis, and cargo bikes too, I'm hopeful that a petrol/diesel phase out will result in a retreat from car culture too.

Still, it's encouraging to see that the National Grid could handle electrification, even in a car-centric scenario of the future. Given that Britain's electricity emissions are plummeting and transportation emissions are growing, a switch cannot come soon enough.

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