Electric cars have come into public consciousness in recent years, but there is still a lingering feeling that maybe they are for someone else, for our grandchildren perhaps, or that they are something down the line.
But in the technological world time refuses to stand still, and not only will you be hearing a lot more about electric vehicles, in time you may even want to own one, for two very good reasons.
One of them, of course, is doing your bit for the environment. And the other? By 2025, electric cars are expected to be as cheap as their petrol and diesel counterparts.
That promises to be a motoring game-changer. Funding is also available in Scotland to support drivers in buying an electric vehicle, as well as tax-relief for drivers of Low-Emission
Loans funded by Transport Scotland and administered by Energy Saving Trust offer eligible drivers in Scotland a loan of up to £20,000 to cover the cost of purchasing a used electric car, and loans of up to £28,000 to cover the cost of purchasing a new pure electric vehicle.
Electric vehicles have a lot more going for them than pure economics. On the environmental front, the main benefit is the contribution they can make towards improving air quality. With
no exhaust, pure electric cars produce no carbon dioxide emissions when driving. This reduces air pollution considerably. Over a year, just one electric car on the roads can save
an average of 1.5 million grams of CO2. That’s the equivalent of four return flights from London to Barcelona.
Those benefits are great news, but the expected growing popularity of electric cars also means more power will be needed to supply those getting behind the wheel. With these changes in the way we are using energy and with increasing low carbon generation, matching supply to demand could get even more challenging in the future.
According to National Grid, if electric vehicles are not charged smartly to avoid peaks in power demand, such as when people return home from work, peak demand could be as much as 8GW higher in 2030.
Luckily, the technology to help create a more flexible, smarter energy system already exists - smart meters. These digital devices are replacing the analogue meters some of us still have
in cupboards and under the stairs. They are laying the foundations of an energy system that could help us better plan the energy we need nationally, and that can pinpoint where faults are occurring more quickly.
And while electric cars increase electricity demand, they could also be part of a solution to the problem of unpredictable energy supply. When green energy is cheap and abundant, we
could store that energy in car batteries and release it later when needed, rather than using high-carbon electricity. Better still, we may be able to sell stored energy back to the grid when demand and the price is high.
Smart meters are key to making this new energy future work well. They are the tool needed to reward customers for using energy flexibly – for example through providing super-cheap
prices for using more energy when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining.
New energy tariffs for homes with electric vehicle chargers or solar battery systems can deliver significant savings, with smart meters working with those technologies to help households use energy when it is cheapest.
And the benefits of domestic energy generation and storage don’t just stop at your front door. On a national scale, as renewables grow to substantial levels and electricity demand
reaches new heights, the energy grid will need ever greater flexibility, including the storage of electricity in homes and car batteries across the country. By creating, storing and selling
their own electricity, households can help towards decarbonisation, and in doing so make a significant contribution to a cleaner, greener Britain.
One easy step we can all take towards this eco-friendly future is to ask energy suppliers about getting a smart meter installed –they’re the first step for consumers to really take control of their energy use and costs, and they’re a really easy way we can all contribute to a carbon-neutral world.
To find out more about smart meters, contact your energy supplier or visit smartenergygb.org.
- Iagan MacNeil
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