Vehicle-to-Grid Britain

Introduction

Energy Systems Catapult has been appointed to provide modelling support in a consortium project that is studying how to reward drivers who use their electric car batteries to support the UK’s power grid.

The Challenge and Opportunity

Current trends show that sales of Electric Vehicles is running at 69% year on year growth, while charging infrastructure growth is at 31%1.

The adoption of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEV) will bring significant benefits to the UK in improved air quality, decarbonisation, and economic growth. A recent Catapult report ‘Mobilising the response to Electric Vehicle growth in the UK’, highlighted the effects of EV uptake on the electricity grid, and explored ways to avoid network capacity constraints and costly upgrades which could impede the roll-out of EVs or pass on extra costs to customers..

EV charging loads are unprecedented, and early UK trials showed that widespread, uncontrolled, EV charging could double peak loads on distribution networks. As more car companies announce plans to focus on EV drivetrains, the ramping up of this charging load could be very rapid indeed, challenging the stability and security of the electricity grid.

Controllable/dispatchable charging is an important first step but there are far greater market opportunities available if the full potential of the EV fleet is realised via Vehicle to Grid technology. The energy storage capacity of a future EV fleet would represent an energy asset of national significance. Studies by partners on this project have shown how EVs can stabilise grids, delay infrastructure investments, increase the deployment of variable Renewable Energy technologies on grids, reduce curtailment, lower grid carbon emissions, and provide low cost energy for driving, all without interrupting the service provided to the driver. The system flexibility provided by Vehicle to Grid (V2G) is vital to achieving these outcomes.

As of today, there remain significant gaps in knowledge on potential V2G markets and revenue streams, competition with other technologies, driver behaviour and response to V2G, and commercial arrangements and legislative constraints.

The Innovation

The aim of the Vehicle to Grid Britain project is to unlock an understanding of the key drivers supporting the roll out of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technologies, enabling millions of electric car batteries to become a vital part of the UK energy system.

When EVs are left plugged into smart, two-way charging points while not in use, their batteries can actually feed power back into the network at times of peak demand.

Smart chargers can then control when cars recharge to avoid adding stress to the network and to store surplus power when demand is low. This has the potential to allow the grid to operate more efficiently, support higher levels of renewables and reduce reliance on fossil fuel power stations. Done effectively this would lower the cost of ownership for EV owners.

While doing this, new business opportunities are set to emerge to help realise benefits for both EV users and energy consumers more widely. The consortium is seeking to establish what the opportunity for V2G is and, where benefits are identified, what mechanisms would be most effective to realise that potential – drivers of EVs, owners of smart chargers and charging sites such as car parks, and aggregators of battery capacity.

Leading transport and energy companies, including National Grid, Western Power Distribution and car manufacturer Nissan are collaborating in the project, led by Element Energy who will also coordinate the modelling, supported by ourselves, Moixa and Cenex.

National Grid and Western Power Distribution will advise on electricity system operation and distribution network challenges and opportunities. Nissan’s European Technical Centre will provide real-life data on driver behaviour, drawing on experience of delivering more than 500,000 EVs worldwide.

The study V2GB – Vehicle-to-Grid Britain – is one of 21 projects sharing nearly £30 million of government funding in a competition run by Innovate UK, which seeks to make the UK a world leader in low carbon vehicles and represents a significant step towards the transition to a low carbon transportation and a smart energy system.

The findings of the study will be published in spring 2019 and will be used to help to assess how significant V2G revenues could be and the extent to which they could influence EV uptake within the wider market and policy environment.

Our Approach

Energy Systems Catapult will provide the modelling capability to establish the energy system impacts of implementing V2G under a range of different vehicle uptake and electricity generation scenarios. This analysis will inform the opportunity available to future V2G providers and establish key drivers and dependencies that would influence V2G revenue.