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Network magazine on electric vehicles article

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We talk to Network magazine about the transnational potential of electric vehicles. Thanks to https://networks.online/ for their permission to reproduce.

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Network magazine on electric vehicles article

  1. 1. NETWORK / 24/ OCTOBER 2017 ELECTRIC VEHICLES A self-confessed “petrolhead”, the senior innovation lead in energy systems at Innovate UK, Mark Thompson, had experience working for both luxury carmaker Bentley and the Energy Innovation Centre prior to taking on his current role at the government body, at which he has now developed – with a number of other stakeholders – a vision for electric vehicles for 2025. With a background that encompasses gas-guzzling luxury cars and energy innova- tion and now EVs, Thompson is well-placed to comment on the speed of the transi- tion toward a future in which they play an increasingly important role in transporta- tion in the UK – and, perhaps, play a role in balancing network and consumer demands. Thompson says challenges for the networks as there is a greater up-take of EVs include identifying and dealing with clusters of vehicles and understanding their usage, including preferences for charging. “We need to understand where the charging points are and what the intended use of the charging points is – even knowing there is an intention to use the charging point will in time become very useful when it comes to managing networks.” Current visibility is quite weak in terms of charging point infra- structure data and its use – one of a number Future vision for EVs Network talks to Innovate UK, which is developing a strategy for electric vehicles that consults with all stakeholders
  2. 2. NETWORK / 25/ OCTOBER 2017 of challenges facing networks as they deal with increasing use of EVs. Frequency, timing and charging behaviour will be key factors in an electric vehicle future in which consumers and networks enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship, through, for exam- ple, vehicle-to-grid services. “EVs are currently used by people who try and take as much energy as they can when they charge, rather than the energy that they need,” explains Thompson. “There is a tendency for people to take all the energy they can get when they are plugged in. The world we want to move to is one in which range anxiety is greatly reduced, and people only take what they need because there are preferential rates for doing so at certain times of day. That is a win-win for consumer and DNO.” Opportu- nities for consumers include the potential to align demand with the time of day needs that the different network operators have. “In terms of providing energy back to the grid, vehicle-to-grid is also an exciting area.” Innovate UK has just run a £20m funding competition to develop vehicle-to- grid technologies. “This is an area in terms of EVs that really captures people’s imagina- tion,” Thompson says, “and an opportunity for this whole domain to capture the imagi- nation of not only vehicle users – but help people understand the energy system. If people receive a message that says, ‘because of the way you’ve consented to give vehicle- to-grid control, you have made money by selling energy to your your DSO to help ease network constraints’ – that would be great.” In terms of consumer behaviour, there is likely to be a spectrum of interest in selling vehicle-to-grid and other services, Thomp- son, who owns a Nissan Leaf himself, acknowledges. “We will also need a diver- sity of choice in terms of EVs and associated services, that cater to different people and different lifestyles. In terms of networks there will be some people who just want to plug in, and others who want to maximise their gain in terms of selling energy.” The EV readiness manager Richard Hartshorn is EV readiness manager at Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks. He says that EVs are going to have an “iPhone moment” very shortly, in which the market explodes as never before, and in which there is a perfect combination of subsidies, incentives and customer expectation – and these all marry together. That will lead to much higher levels of uptake, he says. “The challenge for us is visibility; all DNOs have been using a model in which there is gradual change, and we can plan for that accordingly. As the EV markets start to change rapidly, moving into the DSO world gives us the opportunity to be far more flexible; instead of digging up a street and replacing a cable, or upgrading a transformer, we can do smarter stuff such as demand-side management. We can make the most of what is already there, while still giving customers the innovation and flexibility they are craving. “There will be some areas where smart solutions won’t do the job – and we might have to go back to traditional reinforcement.” But smart solutions are very exciting, Hartshorn says, – vehicle-to-grid especially. “As someone who works in industry but is also a customer, the potential is incredible. It would allow customers to access new markets. I think everyone in in- dustry can see the benefits of this, whether that is suppliers, aggregators, National Grid – and DSOs. It would allow us to balance supply and demand at a local level, which is where we see the issues. There might be some local generation that only outputs at a certain level and the network is at capacity, so we could procure a service via a third party and say, ‘we would like the EVs in this area to absorb ‘X’ amount of energy’. That would keep the network within limits, and EV users might benefit from cheaper charging.” It is difficult to predict how quickly the EV landscape in the UK will evolve, says Hartshorn. “We think there will be prime conditions in the early 2020s. All the manufacturers now are making announcements about offering new models with hybrid or battery powertrains. Gov- ernment subsidies and Low Emission Zones will have an impact. EVs will have increased range and speed to charge. “We can see all those factors coming together.” The DSO Ian Cameron, head of innovation at UK Power Networks, says preparation to facilitate the uptake of EVs is a core part of the network’s strategy. “The work that UK Power Networks is doing on EVs has been recognised by Innovate UK as very progres- sive.” This includes a strategy that covers a number of areas: appropriate investment in policies and standards; delivering a good customer experience while expand- ing choice and convenience in terms of EV uptake; engaging and educating, as well as learning; and smart trials. “We want to make sure we are the network in the background facilitating the uptake of EVs,” Cameron says. “Our role is a facilitator, but we need to share long-term and short-term plans with the EV community.” In the future, he says, EVs will become ‘mobile energy resources’. “We are used to managing static resources, where we can easily profile the outputs. Movable energy resources are dynamic, and active. Our network will require automated and active network management, right the way down to the low voltage level, to deal with resources that are on the move.” As part of the next Network Innovation Competition, UK Power Networks is developing an autonomous low voltage and high voltage network, meshed together using power electronics, that can respond to different load or generation pro- files, Cameron explains. “Part of our DSO strategy is also to use customer flexibility as an alternative to upgrades to the network,” he adds. This may involve the use of vehicle- to-grid as a key contributor to sustaining the network. “It is about getting out into the market, talking to the car manufacturers and the fleet operators and energy suppliers – we have a team dedicated to that. There needs to be better collaboration between all sectors and stakeholders.”
  3. 3. NETWORK / 26/ OCTOBER 2017 The current roll-out of charging infra- structure needs to ramp-up although there is a lack of data on how well demand for charging is currently matched by supply. “In the early days of charging there were some stories in the media about charging posts not being used for a year. I think that is extremely unlikely now. Most public chargers are well used. But as the vehicle population grows, we need to match supply with demand.” Vehicle battery capacity is rising rapidly, which will allay range anxiety on the part of drivers in the long-term, Thompson says. “I think range anxiety will be a thing of the past in five years’ time.” As in many areas, such as the energy system, the pace of change in the auto- motive industry seems to be increasing. Manufacturers are completely replacing models every five years. “The technology that is going into cars has exploded in the last five years,” Thompson says, “in terms of sophistication and processing power. I think the OEMs are doing well at keeping up. But the interface between charging system and vehicle will catalyse the sector too, and cre- ate value for the end user.” The networks are doing “some great stuff already” in terms of preparing for this brave new world of EVs, says Thompson. “The My Electric Avenue Project was a great start. They have been leading this whole domain and doing a fantastic job.” The next step is to gear in the broader supply chain, including the parking sector, the intelligent transport systems sector, and local authorities, and gradually build a much more collegiate, more mature set of relationships between the network opera- tors and other stakeholders, he says. “We need a joined-up team, rather than what we have at the moment, which is network operators working alone. We need a collegiate relationship between network operators and OEMs.” ELECTRIC VEHICLES The TSO Thomas Maidonis is a storage and flexibility expert at National Grid. He says the company’s overall objective is to balance the system in real time, making use of different resources to do this at the lowest possible cost for the end user. EVs present a mixture of difficulties and op- portunities to the grid, he says. “They are a great opportunity for us; a great resource in terms of decentralised flexibility that can be used in order to help us balance the system. They have the potential to have a huge impact. At the moment 105,000 EVs are on the streets but we will see millions in the coming years. By 2025 and 2030 there will be a huge potential for flexibility provision at a decentralised level.” Challenges will include making the best use of this new resource. In an ideal world, the grid would avoid uncontrolled full charging at times of peak demand. This would require new grid infrastructure that would be very costly, Maidonis says. “This is not an optimum use of available resources.” There is a need for new infrastructure and technology, not just by National Grid but by many different stakeholders as the majority of vehicles will be connected directly to the distribution network. Some will also be connected to facilities that are linked to the transmission system. “If the grid is to use EVs to provide power at times of peak demand, we must make sure we call on their services correctly and don’t create a negative impact on the DSOs where they are connected. Co-ordination between transmission-level services and distribution-level services will be key,” Maidonis says. The charging company Natalia Silverstone, senior consultant at Pod Point, a leading EV charging company, has also been contributing to Innovate UK’s vision for 2025 for EVs. “In terms of the customer experience, one of the most exciting things for many people is rapid charging. For me, the most exciting thing is on the intelligent, connected charging side. What can a charger do? What kind of data can it gather, and how can it help other industries?” This might include how the connected charger can link with energy retailers and time-of-use tariffs, and how it can help with managing loads on the grid at the DNO/DSO, Silverstone explains. “It is accepted that EVs are going to affect the grid, and that smart or man- aged charging is a necessity. It needs to be managed in a clever way. We need to manage the charge around the consumer. There are many hours in the day to make the charge. We need to figure out how to manage it so the consumer is not affected. As charge point operators, who get a lot of data back from drivers, we see ourselves as well-positioned to understand the driver.” When energy aggregators get involved in the EV market, companies such as Pod Point will be well-placed to provide a response service, Silverstone says. “As a charge point operator, we see such innovation as part of what is needed to be responsible, and make this a sustainable industry,” she adds.

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