Electric vehicle charge point; Electric vehicle charge point;

Assessing electric vehicle charging needs at UK Motorway Service Areas,

Enabling the roll out of rapid electric vehicle charging stations

As part of the UK’s commitment to end its contribution to climate change, the government has committed to supporting the growth of green, zero emission technologies. Access to public electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure has been defined as a key part of supporting the transition to greener transport. To help meet this challenge, we have been working to assess gaps in charging infrastructure at motorway service stations in the UK. 

We were commissioned by the UK’s Department for Transport (DfT), Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to assess the electrical grid infrastructure requirements needed to accommodate EV charging on motorways in the UK until 2040.

Our analysis has fed into the publication of a policy paper outlining the UK government’s vision for the rapid chargepoint network in England in May 2020. The vision aims to ensure that there is a rapid-charging network ready to meet the long-term consumer demand for electric vehicle chargepoints ahead of time.

Plugging the charging gaps

Grid requirements are based on the minimum viable charging network needed to meet the EV charging demand. This is effectively a network of ultra-rapid (150KW+) hubs to meet long-distance en-route charging needs. Our role saw us assess the barriers to rolling out the infrastructure and the potential size of any gaps, with a particular focus on grid connections. This work will help inform decisions for potential government interventions to support the development of national EV charging infrastructure at around 120 Motorway Service Areas (MSAs) locations. 

The project considers the demand requirements with the grid availability for electricity distribution and transmission. It also estimates the potential costs for connecting the charging hubs to the grid as a high-level feasibility study for the sites.

Modelling future needs

To help develop an accurate estimate of likely energy requirements for each of the separate sites, we analysed individual movements from regional transport models to better understand how people are likely to use charging stations throughout the day. We then translated it into infrastructure required (the number of chargepoints and capacity needed) for three demand levels, including 100% EV uptake. We provided cost estimates for multiple connection options per site to give a sensible range. The grid costs vary by location based on electricity network constraints and the size of demand at that site. 

Intelligent modelling: We used a similar approach to model the energy requirements for motorway service stations across the UK
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A collaborative road to reducing carbon

We worked closely with a range of stakeholders to deliver the study, including MSA operators, charging operators, distribution network operators, National Grid, Pivot Power and Highways England.

The UK Government’s Rapid Charging Fund is currently being defined with our work feeding into it and we are now undertaking further similar work, focussing on A-roads in England.

Learn more about our highways and energy expertise.