LONDON - IBM on March 18 announced an agreement with the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) to evaluate the potential impact of electric vehicles on the United Kingdom electricity grid. 

The project will also assess the infrastructure required to achieve a mass market for electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in the U.K. 

IBM will coordinate a consortium of companies -- EDF Energy, E.ON and Imperial Consultants -- in conducting the study. The U.K. government has already committed 300 million pounds to create the infrastructure for plug-in vehicles and has provided consumer incentives. Supporting infrastructure has already begun rolling out in London, the North East and Milton Keynes. 

In addition, the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) has said it will provide grants of up to 5,000 pounds for consumers who buy ultra-low carbon cars.


The project will focus on a number of areas: 

  • Analysis of how growth in electric vehicle recharging could impact electricity distribution networks, and what steps energy companies could take to overcome any barriers to supplying demand
  • Identification of the smart infrastructure needed for mass-market use of electric vehicles in the U.K.
  • Design concepts for the 'intelligent architecture' of interconnected data and systems needed to enable local networks of electric vehicle charging points linked to the distribution networks
  • Planning for design changes that maintain distribution networks' effective operation and management
  • Assessment of current issues and likely future developments involving regulatory, legislative and commercial matters related to the recharging infrastructure.  

"Achieving these major milestones sets the ETI firmly on track to start extensive real-world testing of consumer attitudes to plug-in vehicles and the supporting infrastructure through 2010 and into 2011," noted Dr. David Clarke, CEO of the Energy Technologies Institute. "With the Committee on Climate Change indicating in October 2009 a potential need for 1 billion pounds of investment in vehicle price support, realizing a self-sustaining mass market for plug-in vehicles is a huge challenge. By developing and robustly testing these pathways, we aim to act as a guiding light to support over 300 million pounds of U.K. investment already committed to infrastructure deployment and consumer incentives for plug-in vehicles." 


The IBM-led research is one of three projects totaling 4.5 million pounds that have been launched as part of the ETI's Electrification of Light Vehicles program. The other projects will assess the economic and carbon benefits as well as the consumer behavior patterns linked to the mass roll-out of plug-in vehicles.

Together, the projects aim to lead to a proposal for an overall system architecture for integrating plug-in vehicles. This system will address electricity networks, charging points, and payment systems, and will help ensure compatibility across the U.K. 

The three projects will provide analysis of more than 3,000 electric vehicles owned and driven by consumers. Over 11,000 charge points will be installed across areas in London and the South East, the Midlands and the North East. 

"Electric vehicles have enormous potential for creating a cleaner transport system to help the U.K. meet its 2050 carbon reduction targets," said Jon Bentley, energy and environment partner for IBM Global Business Services. "However, there is uncertainty over the pace of vehicle development, consumer take-up and patterns of usage and charging. It is important we anticipate the likely requirements these developments will have for grid enhancement and the need for an intelligent architecture. We need to take action now to ensure lead times are put in place for open and interoperable architectures, while allowing time to monitor the positive impact on the electric vehicle market."