Declining costs for electric vehicles (EVs) make the prospect of a surge in EVs on the power system seem imminent. Policymakers are understandably excited at the prospect of decarbonising road transport, and the grid services that EV’s can provide. In the rush to plan for more EVs, many are focusing on incentivising new investment in distribution networks to accommodate the electrification of transport. However, the utilisation rates of existing distribution system assets are often overlooked in this discussion. The deployment of smart grid technologies, combined with the inherent flexibility in when EVs can be charged, creates the opportunity to accommodate growing EV penetration by significantly increasing the utilisation rates of existing network capacity. Assessing existing capacity would forestall unnecessary investment and, in so doing, offer benefits to all consumers, not just those who choose to adopt EVs.

The Regulatory Assistance Project takes a critical look at the anticipated EV load, estimates the network capacity available today, and provides concrete recommendations for smart tariff design and smart technology policy as we contemplate integrating greater numbers of EVs. If we get pricing and technology right, EVs could leverage the large amount of unused existing capacity, from the local distribution system right up to central station power plants.