Getting the UK up to speed with EVs

March 17, 2020 //By Steve Hughes
You’ve doubtless heard of the UK Government’s plans to ban the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars from the year 2035.

That’s less than 5,500 days left to run out and buy that gas-guzzling SUV you know you shouldn’t, but it also means the days remaining to electrify the UK’s road network are rapidly running out.

The world has been hooked on oil and its derivatives for over a century now, arguably going as far back as the 1850s. Petroleum is truly a wonder-material, almost by any metric — in its crude form it can be refined into oils, fuels, lubricants, plastics and much more besides.

It’s hard to imagine modern life without those products, and that’s arguably the reason the world is in the environmental predicament it is — the usefulness of petroleum derivatives is hard to match.

This is especially clear in the context of transportation. For instance, a 40-litre tank of petrol contains over 1.3 gigajoules of energy. Creating a vehicle with this battery capacity, with a reasonable weight and cost, has been beyond the reach of electrical vehicle (EV) manufacturers until high energy-density battery chemistries came to the fore in recent years.

Noisy airwaves

With these developments, the EV market is quickly maturing. To that end, the Institution of Engineering and Technology has streamlined standards for charging port construction. These changes simplify the process for planning and installing EV charging points, so we’ll no doubt see more charging stations popping up around the country because of these changes. Undoubtedly a great step towards electrifying the road network, but moving such vast amounts of energy around is never going to happen without certain problems creeping in.

If you’ve ever passed under high-voltage powerlines while listening to a radio, you’ll know the phenomenon of electromagnetic interference first-hand. That 50 Hertz buzz is caused by a magnetic field created by the alternating current (AC) in the transmission cables. The interference emitted can affect sensitive electronics from remarkable distances.

The 50 Hertz mains buzz is largely unavoidable, as it’s a built-in feature of the grid. However, while we cannot avoid this interference altogether, electrical engineers can limit its incidence at the source with the correct components.

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