Category: Energy – sponsored by Mazak
Title Sponsor: Babcock International Group
Partners: Cenex, University of Nottingham, University of Warwick, CrowdCharge, Leeds City Council and Nottingham City Council
The positive potential of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology, touted by some as an almost mythical panacea for paving the way to decarbonisation in both energy and transport, has long been known. V2G enthusiasts envision the upcoming proliferation of electric vehicles (EVs), specifically their batteries, providing a decentralized grid of energy storage to balance the grid, which in turn will help reduce consumer costs and ultimately reduce emissions.
In theory, it’s a win-win. In practice, it’s a huge engineering challenge that incorporates multiple sectors, several emerging technologies, and no small element of unpredictable human behavior. Bringing together experience from academia and industry, EV-elocity set out to provide hard data on the benefits of V2G technology, using real-world tests to prove its value.
“The concept of V2G has a rich history in academic thinking and in the early stages of R&D, but as electric vehicles have become more widely available, the transportation and energy industries have had to work more and more in close collaboration,” explained Chris Rimmer, deputy director of the Department of Power and Energy Systems. Infrastructure at Cenex, which spearheaded the collaboration.
“The EV-elocity project originated from a group of vehicle manufacturers, charging point operators, research organizations and facility owners who wanted to explore this further, who were able to work on the nexus between energy, mobility, people and technology. Collaboration across disciplines and industries was key in enabling the delivery of innovation that is essential for the electric vehicle industry to maximize its carbon reduction impact.”
As part of the project, nine V2G sites with two-way chargers were deployed in various locations, along with a new backend system architecture to connect, control and ship the infrastructure. Background data was collected over 12 months, covering everything from vehicle usage and building energy demand, to renewable energy generation and grid carbon intensity. These data sets were then combined to predict charge and discharge opportunities and enable the development of models to optimize battery life, as well as cost and carbon savings.
“One of the unique aspects of the EV-elocity project was the way we were able to explore the different benefits of V2G in the real world,” said Professor James Marco, Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) battery systems specialist.
“Previous studies have focused on individual aspects, but we were able to implement charging strategies that looked to minimize the cost of driving, reduce carbon emissions, or potentially extend the life of the vehicle’s battery system. The Cenex model revealed that optimizing charging to reduce carbon also saves costs. Modeling and analysis by WMG highlighted how the battery could be conditioned before V2G operation began to extend its life, leading to further cost savings and greater environmental benefits.”
But no amount of modeling can account for the idiosyncrasies and quirks that inevitably arise when human behavior collides with new technology. Old habits are hard to die, we’re told, and auto habits seem to be the hardest to die. Switching drivers to electric vehicles is essentially a prolonged social and behavioral experiment on a global scale. Adding an additional element of complexity, such as V2G, should be done with as little burden to the end user as possible. Simplifying the use of EV-elocity for drivers was a key component in the success of the project, according to Professor Lucelia Rodrigues, head of the Department of Architecture and the Built Environment at the University of Nottingham.
“By testing in the real world, we were able to explore how users interacted with the technology in the context of operational requirements for security vans, car sharing, municipal services, and other types of fleets,” said Rodrigues, who is also president of Sustainable and Resilient Cities in Nottingham.
“We use telemetry data to identify the best locations for V2G chargers and the potential presence of electric vehicles near these sites to predict charging and discharging opportunities. We then bring these aspects together with the needs of the user and the availability of clean energy to allow our systems to make charging decisions on behalf of the user. We made sure that users’ needs were always met, while delivering carbon and economic benefits, and therefore our interventions were well received: all users had to do was connect and we took care of the rest. . Interestingly, even users of difficult-to-electrify fleets, such as those that require 24-hour action, reported benefits and reduced ‘anxiety’ around electrification.”
Like many of the C2I projects that have graced these pages in recent years, Covid inevitably casts its shadow here as well. In early 2020, some of the initial and unfunded partners withdrew from EV-elocity, leaving the remaining participants to revise the scope and delivery plan to continue to meet core goals. Instead of negatively impacting the project, this strengthened the relationship between the remaining consortium, according to its members. Deployment of the facility was delayed, but the scattered team was able to continue most of their work without hindrance.
“As a distributed, multi-site consortium, we were already using Microsoft Teams to communicate, share and meet before the pandemic, so we were able to move to a virtual model of working with relative ease,” said Chris Rimmer of Cenex.
“Covid was challenging for everyone in many ways and delayed several of our installations as sites were closed or installers were on leave. As the partnership opened up, we were able to complete installations and move into an operational phase, although the usage data we captured was likely not representative of ‘normal life.'”
In tack terms, the project demonstrated that V2G with smart tariffs could deliver savings of around £400 a year per charging point, with carbon savings of up to 450kg. Compared to a baseline “quiet charging” strategy, battery life could also be improved by 8.6-12.3% using custom charging models developed by project partners. The success of EV-elocity has led to the project being recognized by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Innovate UK, who use it as an impact case study. In addition, the infrastructure implemented for the project continues to generate value.
“All test sites have been moved to commercial contracts with CrowdCharge,” said Mike Potter, CrowdCharge: CEO. “V2G is still a very specialized technology, so the sites are not open to the public, but they continue to deliver cost, carbon and fitness savings for fleets.”