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Electric Nation Smart Charged Conference Review

Electric Nation Smart Charged Conference

The Electric Nation Smart Charged Conference, which took place on Tuesday 16 July 2019 at the British Motor Museum, Gaydon, captured the main learning from the three-year home smart charging project in one day. If you missed the event, here’s a summary of some of the key points.

Download the presentations from the Smart Charged conference here

Download the final Electric Nation report here

The importance of the Electric Nation project

Roger Hey, WPD DSO Systems & Projects Manager

Electric Nation Smart Charged Conference

Electric Nation, the UK’s largest project of its kind, has been extremely important to help WPD learn about people’s behaviour around home charging and in particular smart charging. The venue for the Smart Charged Conference – the British Motor Museum at Gaydon – is a reminder of the strong base that the UK automotive industry has in the West Midlands, and that electric vehicles – along with EV services such as charging – are a huge opportunity for the UK.

The challenge of EV charging to DNOs and introduction to the project

Ricky Duke, WPD Innovation & Low Carbon Network Engineer

Electric Nation Smart Charged Conference

An electric vehicle has the same electricity demand as a house. As the numbers of EVs grow, this will result in challenges for electricity networks, especially the low voltage (LV) networks which run between substations and people’s homes. The key issue will occur primarily when large numbers of people return home from work in the evening, especially in winter, and plug in their EVs to charge at peak times. To avoid costly electricity network upgrades, this issue can be alleviated if the charging times of EVs are staggered, and smart charging can potentially facilitate this.

The UK government is looking at mandating smart charging. But does smart charging work from a technical point of view, and is it acceptable to customers? That’s what the Electric Nation project aimed to find out.

Home EV chargers are typically 3.5kW or 7kW – although 7kW is likely to be more commonplace going forwards. Unlike a shower in a house, a charger can have sustained demand for many hours, especially as many EVs due to come to market will have larger batteries. Houses, and local electricity networks, weren’t designed for this level of demand – and certainly weren’t designed for having a large number of EVs charging all at the same time. So we need to find a way to move EV charging away from times of peak electricity demand – do the results of the Electric Nation project show that we can achieve this?

A brief overview of the Electric Nation Smart Charging Trial

Nick Storer, EA Technology Principal Consultant

Electric Nation Smart Charged Conference

The Electric Nation project set out to trial smart charging, but when the project started in 2016, although there were smart chargers designed for commercial use, there weren’t many home smart chargers available. Two brands of chargers were eventually selected, Alfen and eVolt.

The next issue was ensuring communication from the smart chargers, which proved to be a significant challenge – and Nick made the point that now we’re at a time when the government is due to mandate smart charging, charge point installers will have to gain new skills to ensure they’re trained in the comms element of charge point installations.

A test system was built to ensure everything worked before being rolled out to trial participants.

A key challenge was to recruit 500-700 people to take part in the trial. These had to be people who had an EV, or who were just about to take delivery of an EV, but who didn’t have a charger installed at home, and they had to be in the WPD licence areas of the Midlands, the South West, or South Wales. And they had to be recruited in a very tight timescale. This was a significant target, however due to a combination of marketing and communication carried out by Automotive Comms and recruitment carried out by DriveElectric, 700 people were successfully recruited within the deadline. Out of these, 673 EV drivers actually participated in the trial; the remaining 27 people weren’t able to take part primarily due to issues with getting delivery of their EVs on time.

The trial was comprised of around 50% battery electric vehicles and around 50% plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, with approximately 40 different makes and models. All participants were required to take part in surveys which aimed to learn about their attitudes to smart charging.

Trial 1 involved smart charging, but participants weren’t told that their charging was being managed. In trial 2, participants were told that their charging was being managed, and they were given an app to interact with the smart charging system. Trial 3 introduced (simulated) time of use tariffs to assess if the offer of cheaper electricity incentivised people to shift their charging times. Data about charging (a lot of it!) was gathered throughout the trial.

The Crowd Charge Smart Charging System

Mike Potter, Crowd Charge Chief Executive

Electric Nation Smart Charged Conference

The Crowd Charge Smart Charging System utilises charging flexibility from EVs to provide services to the electricity industry. The first challenge in any smart charging system is the collection of data. Collecting data from the charge point should be relatively straightforward if the comms work, but collecting data from EVs about eg. the state of the battery charge is more difficult at the moment, especially with AC, ie. home, charging. Data also needs to be collected from the EV users, along with their preferences.

Mike stressed that understanding human behaviour is key. The project has shown that people can charge their cars in different ways, but overall, EVs are plugged in for much longer than they need for the charge that’s required. Different cars have different energy requirements, and Crowd Charge aims to ‘serve the hungriest cars first’. The system also takes time of use tariffs into account; such tariffs are not common at the moment, although this is due to change.

Mike suggested that ‘simple’ smart charging – by moving charging away from peak times – could reduce the cost of charging an EV by around 30%. He also made the point that the impact of EVs on the network can be managed ‘without any customer upset’.

In the Q&A session the issue was raised about OLEV grants only now being available for smart chargers, but people can still buy ‘dumb’ chargers if they don’t want to access the grant.

The GreenFlux Smart Charging System

Hans de Boer, GreenFlux Chief Executive

Electric Nation Smart Charged Conference

GreenFlux has been using smart chargers since ‘day one’ and now operates smart charging in over 15 countries. One of the areas that the company specialises in is managing smart charging in large buildings, ie. where there may be more EVs than the electricity supply can handle. Smart charging is only typically required for 10% of the time, yet projects have resulted in savings of half a million euros by avoiding grid upgrades.

GreenFlux creates a profile of every car that starts charging and can give priority based on the car being full or empty. People are given the opportunity to interact with the smart charging system via an app, but only when they want to, and any app needs to be simple – such as with a ‘charge me now’ button.

Hans agreed with the findings in Nick Storer’s earlier presentation that comms are the weakest point of any system.

Charging behaviour findings

Nick Storer, EA Technology Principal Consultant

Electric Nation Smart Charged Conference

Some key conclusions include:

Some people used timers on their vehicle to charge overnight. There was also a peak on cold winter mornings when drivers pre-heated their EVs before using them, which contributed to more charging in winter (when battery ranges are also lower).

Around 30% of participants had solar PV on their house, which may have had an impact on when people charged their car.

Overall the key message is that diversity exists, allowing flexibility in charging times.

Trial 1 findings and observations

Esther Dudek, EA Technology Senior Consultant

Nicole McNab, Impact Associate Director

Electric Nation Smart Charged Conference

During this first part of the trial, EV drivers were subjected to smart charging to constrain peak demand period EV charging.

A key finding is that overall, trial participants didn’t notice that their charging was being managed, and the acceptability of smart charging on trial 1 was high, with 84% of people saying that they would continue demand management indefinitely.

Download the final Electric Nation report here

Electric Nation & V2G

Mike Potter, CrowdCharge Chief Executive

Electric Nation Smart Charged Conference

A small element of Electric Nation is a trial of domestic vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging. V2G units have not previously been available for domestic ie. single-phase use in the UK; the project is using Nichicon units from Japan, where they have been successfully used in over 5,000 houses, for vehicle-to-home charging.

V2G works with the CHAdeMO protocol, used for rapid charging, which is only found on the Nissan LEAF and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV in the UK. European car makers instead use CCS, and there are calls for a bidirectional protocol for CCS by 2025.

V2G can give greater flexibility than smart charging, as energy can be taken out of the vehicle as well as being put in, and it can lead to mechanisms such as grid trading.

The findings from the V2G element of the trial will be released in September.

Trial 2 & 3 findings and observations

Esther Dudek, EA Technology Senior Consultant

Nicole McNab, Impact Associate Director

Electric Nation Smart Charged Conference

During the second part of the trial, demand management continued, but EV drivers were given the opportunity to use apps to allow them to interact with smart charging.

Trial participants saw value in having an app, and in particular having a ‘button’ as a safety net on an app was seen as important. However a key overall finding was that apps have to be convenient for people – ie. they need to be simple and not require too much effort to enter data.

In the third and final part of the trial, a financial incentive, in the form of a time of use tariff, was introduced alongside the apps to investigate whether cost savings or rewards might make smart charging more acceptable to EV drivers.

A financial incentive to delay the start of charging had the outcome of participants opting to take up this offer: 23% said that they had actively changed their behaviour because of the time of use tariff. However this resulted in a spike in electricity demand at 10pm, which isn’t desirable, especially at an electricity generation level. Therefore as time of use tariffs are introduced, smart charging needs to be used to avoid this new peak.

Smart charging, time of use tariffs and apps all need to play a part in changing demand profile.

Download the final Electric Nation report here

Conclusions from the trial

Nick Storer, EA Technology Principal Consultant

WPD’s EV Strategy and what comes next

Paul Jewell, WPD DSO Development Manager

Electric Nation Smart Charged Conference

We are on the cusp of a big change: National Grid scenarios now forecast millions of EVs by 2030. WPD has written an EV Readiness strategy in response to this growth, and the data from Electric Nation has informed this document. The growth of EVs will impact on DNOs such as WPD in a range of ways, including proposals to install three phase cables in every new home, working with local authorities to provide enough power to install large numbers of charge points in car parks, and working with companies who are looking to set up high power EV charging hubs. As such, Electric Nation is not the end, but it’s the beginning of future innovation projects.

Download the presentations from the Smart Charged conference here

Download the final Electric Nation report here

Electric Nation Smart Charged Conference

 

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