Apr 25, 2017

Driving a cleaner, greener future

WPD Engineer Mark Dale poses with electric vehicle

It’s full speed ahead for the U.K.’s electric vehicle market, and PPL’s Western Power Distribution team is helping to pave the way.

At the end of 2015, there were about 50,000 electric vehicles on U.K roads. Forecasts suggest that the number of battery-powered electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles will grow to 1 million by 2020.

Icon depicting leaves WPD Innovation Engineer Mark Dale wants his utility to be ready for the resulting electricity demand by taking a proactive approach and preventing any potential speed bumps. That’s why he helped launch WPD’s Electric Nation project in 2016. The two-year initiative will enable the company to better understand the effects of home-charging electric vehicles. By monitoring how different battery sizes and charging speeds impact local distribution networks in the U.K., Dale and his co-workers can anticipate challenges and make adjustments proactively.

“This is the largest electric vehicle trial ever undertaken in the U.K.,” Dale said. “This project shows that WPD is taking seriously the issue of electric vehicles and their impact on the network.”

Innovation Engineer Mark Dale wants WPD to be prepared to meet the increasing demand electric vehicles put on its network.
Innovation Engineer Mark Dale wants WPD to be prepared to meet the increasing demand electric vehicles put on its network.

The first phase of the trial, which began in late 2016, involves recruiting between 500 and 700 participants. Participants receive a free smart charger (valued at about $850) installed at their homes. The project’s findings will help the company reliably manage future electric vehicle load on local electricity networks.

The initiative also helps support future decarbonization of the transportation sector, which is responsible for approximately 21 percent of the U.K.’s greenhouse gas emissions.

WPD is collaborating with automakers on the project, which further demonstrates the company’s commitment to ensuring all network operators are prepared to support environmentally friendly vehicles. “Historically, the automotive and energy sectors have not worked together,” Dale said. “That needs to change due to the increased demand on local electricity networks from electric vehicles.”

Data shows that across Great Britain 32 percent of electricity supply cables will need to be upgraded when between 40 and 70 percent of customers have electric vehicles. By working on smart management solutions now, the company hopes to avoid future cost and disruption involved in upgrading electricity infrastructure.

The program is being promoted through a media campaign, at dealerships and through additional means.

Read the 2016 Sustainability Report