National Grid would support the government bringing forward its 2040 ban on new petrol and diesel cars sales by a decade.
The company, which runs the UK’s national electricity network and wants to build superfast car charging points at motorway services, told MPs it could cope with the demands of an earlier surge in electric car numbers.
Graeme Cooper, the firm’s director of electric vehicles, told the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy select committee: “From Grid’s point of view, 2030 or 2040 is far enough out [to act].”
Asked if the company could handle the challenge of managing energy supplies if sales of fossil fuel-powered cars were banned in 2030, he said: “Absolutely, no problem at all.”
Questioned by Labour MP Vernon Coaker on whether National Grid would back a 2030 deadline, Cooper said the firm would support a more ambitious target.
The Energy Networks Association, which represents local power grids, did not go as far as National Grid’s backing for an earlier date but said: “If the target was brought forward, energy networks are ready to deliver.”
An environmental thinktank recently said a more aggressive target of 2030 would help almost halve the UK’s oil imports and virtually close the looming gap in the country’s carbon targets.
Cooper also told the MPs that even with 9m electric cars on the road by 2030 – a huge rise from about 130,000 at present – there would be would be little need for new power stations, provided the vehicles were charged at off-peak times.
“[We] could see much greater demand for energy [by 2030],” he said. “But if the charging is done smartly so you’re not adding to the peak of the day; then new generation, there’s not really a tremendous amount really needed.”
He said that scenarios published last year by National Grid – which suggested the UK could need the equivalent of six Hinkley Point C nuclear power stations by 2050 to cope with electric cars – were the worst possible situation.
He said that outcome was unlikely as drivers would not all charge at the same time. “The probability is close on zero,” he told Rachel Reeves, the committee’s chair.
Cooper also hinted that its report this summer would revise up its estimate of 9m electric cars by 2030, given how fast they were developing.
The firm is eyeing 50 sites across the UK to build superfast charging points at motorway service stations to end fears of “range anxiety”.
Cooper conceded the rural location of most services meant energy network upgrades for such chargers could be costly, telling MPs they would need “targeted investment”.
Ofgem said the cost of reinforcing electricity grids to cope with charging millions of cars should be largely paid for by electric vehicle owners, rather than all consumers via energy bills.
Andrew Burgess, a partner at the energy regulator, said: “Those who impose an extra cost should bear a fair proportion of that and we should protect consumers in general. And not have consumers who don’t have electric vehicles subsidising those who do.”