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Advances in the development of electric vehicles, along with policy incentives, will see a wider uptake of this technology in the transport sector in future years. However, the widespread adoption of electric vehicles could lead to adverse effects on the power system, especially for existing distribution networks. These effects would include excessive voltage drops and overloading of network components, which occur mainly during periods of simultaneous charging of large numbers of electric vehicles. This paper demonstrates how controlling the rate at which electric vehicles charge can lead to better utilization of existing networks. A technique based on linear programming is employed, which determines the optimal charging rate for each electric vehicle in order to maximize the total power that can be delivered to the vehicles while operating within network limits. The technique is tested on a section of residential distribution network. Results show that, by controlling the charging rate of individual vehicles, high penetrations can be accommodated on existing residential networks with little or no need for upgrading network infrastructure.