EV drivers in Midlands, South Wales and South West England offered free smart charger installation to take part in trial
One hundred electric vehicle drivers are being recruited across the Midlands, South West England, and South Wales to take part in the next phase of a vehicle-to-grid (V2G) trial announced this week by Western Power Distribution and EV charging phone app service CrowdCharge.
The two firms are offering free installations of smart EV chargers worth £5,500 to Nissan Leaf electric car drivers living in the three regions as part of the 'Electric Nation' trial, which aims to test the ability of V2G technology to help balance the power grid at times of peak demand.
Rapid growth in EV numbers on UK roads means more battery cars charging up at the same time, thereby placing greater pressure on local electricity networks, particularly during typical peak periods for the grid between 5pm and 7pm in the evening.
But smart charging technology such as V2G - which enables battery cars to both charge up and send power back to the grid as required - is widely seen as a means of easing pressure on the grid by turning EVs into mobile battery storage units and reducing the need for additional energy generation. It also opens up the potential for electric car drivers to be paid for storing excess power and sending it back to the grid when required.
V2G technology can link EVs together in order to put power back into the grid at peak times "like a huge decentralised power station", Western Power Distribution CrowdCharge said.
Dubbed 'Electric Nation', the pilot project differs to other V2G trials, as it is set to involve up to five different energy suppliers instead of just one, in order to provide a more realistic simulation of how the technology may operate in the market in future, Western Power Distribution explained.
Roger Hey, DSO systems and projects manager at the company, said V2G technology had the potential to transform how networks approach the challenge of millions of EVs charging up and driving across the country. But he warned the energy industry needed to urgently begin work now to prepare for the surge in EVs that is likely to occur as part of the UK's 2050 net zero goal.
"To introduce up to 38 million EVs to the UK network over the coming years would create great strain on the system, the equivalent of adding the electrical energy of London 14 times," he explained. "By harnessing flexible systems and introducing V2G charging, it means that we can build a far more efficient and flexible network that doesn't require billions of investment and a huge uplift in capacity."
Western Power Distribution said the application process for Nissan EV drivers was now open, but it stressed that the timescale for smart charger installations, and therefore the trial itself, was still "subject to confirmation based on government advice in relation to Covid-19".
Hey said smart charger installers would not be visiting homes to roll out the equipment "in the near future" as a result of the pandemic. "There are a number of steps we have to go through before we reach that stage," he explained. "These will take several months and are all carried out remotely."
The latest part of the Electric Nation trial follows the first phase in 2018, which was at the time the world's largest EV smart charging trial and aimed to provide data on driver behaviour and habits associated with more than two million hours of electric car charging.
By plugging in to charge up their cars at specified times and putting power back into the grid, participants in the latest phase of the trial are expected to earn a minimum reward up to a value of £120 during the trial period, which is set to run between March 2021 and March 2022, the firms said.
"Vehicle to grid charging is a great concept, but it hasn't yet been trialled sufficiently on Britain's electricity networks to enable it to be rolled out on a country-wide basis - hence the need for this project," said Mike Potter, CEO of CrowdCharge. "This trial will study the real-world effects of V2G and look to provide a smart solution to provide management of electric vehicle charging. The project can provide an important insight into how the market and the distribution network operator can operate for maximum benefit for all customers."
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