London - What’s it to be ? Charging your electric car at home or a cup of tea? A report warns that electric car drivers will not be able to do both at the same time because they will trip their fuses.
Britain's energy authority has calculated that most electric vehicles need a battery capacity of 90 kilowatt hours for drivers to travel 480 kilometres, the distance car manufacturers are aiming for.
As the average size battery charger is a 3.5kW device, this would take 19 hours to fully charge even when it is about a quarter full. What’s more, a powerful car such the Tesla Model S, which takes six hours to charge, would trip a circuit breaker if the owner switched on their kettle - or any other high energy item such as a hair-drier - while charging his or her car.
So how will these new EVs be charged so they don't blow the fuse box? That’s the big question policymakers and car manufacturers need to answer quickly.
They should be looking to the Norwegians for inspiration. As usual, they are ahead of the curve when it comes to adopting new technologies. More than a third of all new cars sold in Norway come with an electric plug as the country aims for zero emissions by 2025. In Oslo, most of the city’s public spaces, car parks and roadside cafes, have installed super-chargers capable of charging the most powerful of Teslas.
While the UK ban on petrol and diesel cars will not take effect until 2040, there are signs that the public’s appetite for electric is growing fast. More than 20 percent of all new cars sold in Britain in 2016 were electric or hybrid. There are now about 32 million cars on Britain’s roads and forecasters reckon that as many as 70 percent of them will be electric vehicles by 2050. By the end of this decade, every big car maker aims to have launched an EV which is able to drive for several hundred kilometres on a charge, which will require a national network of super duper chargers.
Apart from tripping the fuse, there are many other problems with relying on home charging. For starters, only half the car driving population have a permanent parking spot or a place to connect to the network, so other solutions will have to be found. Car parks, shopping centres and petrol stations are all obvious place to install super chargers.
Here’s the conundrum. Large battery EVs will not become widespread unless there are enough charging stations to service them in a national network, and vice versa - so who are the likely players?
As well as the big supermarket chains, other contenders could include the car manufacturers themselves and charging network operators, working together with electricity suppliers. There is big business to be had. As Amara’s Law suggests, we tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run, and underestimate the effect in the long run. If in doubt, think of the boom in iPhones over the past decade.