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Fleet electrification pilot set to give market ‘confidence’, reduce network upgrades

Image: C±

Image: C±

An EV pilot looking into how to mitigate the impact of commercial electrification on networks is to provide a “template” to fleet operators.

The ‘Optimise Prime’ EV pilot – run by UKPN alongside Centrica, Royal Mail, Uber and SSEN – is looking into how to mitigate the impact of commercial EV electrification on networks.

The project – which claims to be one of the largest EV trials in the world and was awarded £16.4 million of funding under Ofgem’s Networks Innovation Competition - is collecting data on EV charging to provide insight on where the networks should invest.

Speaking at Solar and Storage Live in Birmingham, Giulia Privitera, low carbon technologies delivery manager for innovation at UKPN, said: “What we’re ultimately doing is... trying to understand when and where electric vehicles are actually charging to allow us to invest just enough and just in time to support the transition.

“We think once the models are there and available, fleets might be one of the first to impact the network because their capacity requirements are quite high.”

Three main questions are to be addressed through the project, namely how to quantify and minimise the impact of electrification of commercial vehicles on the distribution network, what the value proposition of flexibility is, for example smart charging, and what infrastructure is required for the transition.

The data from the trial will then be used to develop solutions to the costs of electrification for fleets and networks. Some of these solutions may include solar and storage as part of the depot model, with the technologies currently being modelled as part of the project.

Jim Donaldson, director of innovation and delivery at Hitachi Europe, said: “On the depot side of things, what we’re starting to get is clustering. Most depots are looking at quite substantial grid reinforcements.

“What that means is either delays to the roll out, high costs for the depot operators, and then what that ultimately means is the EV transition is slower or not as ambitious as it could be.”

The data collected from the project is also set to provide a template for other fleets, with the aim of encouraging wider electrification.

Chris Jackson, head of EV strategy for fleets at Centrica Business Solutions, said: “This trial is about the confidence that will come out of the results that will enable not Centrica, Royal Mail and Uber to electrify but everyone- everyone can benefit because we’ve done it, we’ll share the learnings and give the market confidence.

Donaldson added: “If we can provide that reference design or that template for fleets in the UK – but also globally – that’s something we can be very proud of.”

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