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Atkins calls for joined-up approach to power the cars of the future

Major energy supply challenges await as we transition from decades of traditional fuel cars to an era of electric vehicles, according to a new study by Atkins. These challenges will need close collaboration between the transport and energy industries to solve them.

The study, Connected and autonomous vehicles - the implications for the energy network, shows worldwide sales of electric cars are rising as technology costs reduce and environmental benefits increase, but questions on how to power them sustainably still remain.

Andrew McFarlane, Atkins' Fellow and technical director, said: "Trying to meet short-term energy requirements without compromising the integrity of the systems underpinning advanced societies in the longer term is both necessary and extremely difficult."

The UK Government's ambitious target to achieve an 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, requires that 60 per cent of new cars on the road in the next 15 years will need to be powered by electricity.

This creates wide ranging implications and challenges:
Where and when will people be recharging their cars?
How will the network cope with surges in power demand?
How will it affect our infrastructure?
What is the climate impact of the source of the electrical power?

Andrew said: "If we are going to meet the targets set by the Government, it requires a step change in the way we use electricity in our homes, our workplaces and on our roads. Finding effective ways to integrate the benefits of electric vehicles into our energy usage will be critical."

One approach to addressing the strain on the supply would be to encourage people to avoid peak demand periods by charging their electric vehicles overnight. However, 30 per cent of UK residents do not have off-street parking. Providing all car owners with the infrastructure for overnight charging would come at a significant cost and involve a range of stakeholders.

Andrew added: "Atkins is already working with clients and governments to co-create intelligent mobility* solutions - we now need to bring energy providers into the discussion so that we understand and can influence when and where electric and connected and autonomous vehicles will be recharged to minimise pressure on the national grid and carbon emissions from the power source."

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