MK trial: how electricity networks can cope with charging more EVs


As an increasing numbers of electric vehicles are charged at home so there is inevitably going to be more pressure on electricity networks.

However, The Milton Keynes Domestic Energy Balancing EV Charging trial, which ran from 2020 to 2022, has found that this stress can be alleviated by the use of new charging technologies, and drivers using vehicle to grid chargers may be able to reduce their charging costs in some cases to zero.

Residents in the Milton Keynes Council area with any make or model of electric vehicle were able to apply.

However, to take part in the V2G element of the trial, participants had to have a Nissan EV with a battery capacity of at least 30kWh or more.

The trial included 12 participants – four with vehicle to grid (V2G) chargers and eight with smart chargers – with more than 3,500 charge cycles taking place and over 35 MWh of energy charged.

Participants utilised the CrowdCharge platform and dynamic energy services from the project partner, Flexitricity, to combine domestic smart electric vehicle charging (V1G) and vehicle to grid charging (V2G), to serve a range of new flexibility services, which can be used to reduce demand on electricity networks, and which are due to be introduced in the UK energy market in the next two to three years.

CrowdCharge, through its aggregated smart charging platform, utilised various profiles which ensure the protection of the Distribution Network Operator’s low voltage network to address the network operator’s concerns about anticipated rapid EV uptake in the coming decade.

The digital platform, accessed via an app, can manage multiple EV chargers to provide drivers with cheaper and greener electricity, while at the same time reducing the impact from EV charging on the electricity grid.

The trial showed that the combination of different technologies has the potential to reduce the load on the electricity grid from charging EVs, when used in conjunction with a smart charger and battery energy management platform.

It also demonstrated that there is the potential for EV owners to save money on energy costs. By the end of the trial, charge cycles for some participants were at least 40% cheaper than unmanaged charging.

Mike Potter, CEO of CrowdCharge, said: “We’ve shown that different technologies can help prevent local electricity networks being overloaded, but the key is the intelligent management of such technologies.

“Successfully integrating these systems can mean that electric vehicle drivers can benefit from greener energy as well as energy cost savings.”

Participants with V2G chargers were sometimes able to reduce their charging costs to zero by charging at cheap times and then powering their homes at expensive times.

In total, participants saved a combined £2,242 during the trial – an average of £15 per user per month.

In addition they were able to regularly reduce the carbon emissions of their charging by at least 25%.

Those with V2G technology were sometimes able to charge with zero emissions during periods when they could use 100% renewable energy, and discharge at periods of high carbon intensity.

The traditional evening peak of demand therefore disappeared for these V2G users as they were running their homes from their cars during this peak time, therefore reducing the strain on the grid.

This project also revealed important learning points, including how technologies such as battery storage are currently difficult to integrate into home energy systems and that more work is needed to overcome this.

The learning is expected to help the electricity industry better manage the peaks in electricity demand caused by charging increasing numbers of EVs, and to understand how new technologies may impact the system.

CrowdCharge is now offering the energy optimisation services that were trialled on the project, and has V2G users on its platform.

It says that EV drivers with V2G are achieving real-life savings on their energy bills, especially when combined with the generation of energy at home from solar panels.

Milton Keynes Council hosted the project, while it also received funds from the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) through Go Ultra Low Milton Keynes.

Cllr Jenny Wilson-Marklew, Cabinet Member for Climate and Sustainability said: “This is yet another Milton Keynes project that will help tackle climate change by informing the wider industry on ways that they can make owning and running an electric vehicle more appealing.

“It’s shown that a combination of different charging technologies working together can help to balance the grid, which is becoming increasingly important as we head to a future where virtually all new cars sold will be electric.

“We look forward to implementing what we’ve learnt as part of our range of initiatives in Milton Keynes to future-proof our infrastructure for electric vehicles.”


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