Led by Hitachi Vantara and UK Power Networks, the three-year Optimise Prime trial will see up to 3,000 electric vehicles (EVs) from Centrica, Uber and a parcel carrier take to the road, supported by distributor Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks, Hitachi Europe and Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions.
The UK energy regulator Ofgem gave the green light for the trial today (Friday, November 30), which brings together leading power, technology, fleet and transport companies to test and implement the best approaches to the EV rollout for commercial operators.
Funding of £16.6 million will come from Ofgem via its Network Innovation Competition, with a further £18m coming from the project partners.
The project will come up with practical ways of overcoming the up-front costs that are currently holding back many of the country’s biggest commercial operators from making the switch to EVs.
It aims to deliver an end-to-end overview of what the switch to EVs means for the cables and substations that deliver electricity to the community, for the businesses that need to invest in new infrastructure, and for the end users that need to power their vehicles. It is intentionally vehicle agnostic and includes depot, home, and on-the-road charging scenarios.
Using large, real-life datasets and Internet of Things technologies, the project will create a detailed picture of the demands of electric fleet and private hire vehicles. This, it says, will make it possible to develop solutions that cut the cost of owning and running EVs, such as charging them outside the electricity network’s peak times.
The UK’s big commercial vehicle operators must overcome several obstacles before they adopt EVs on a large scale – all the way from the up-front capital hurdle to managing charging times.
Network operators, meanwhile, need to get a better understanding of the impact of commercial EVs on the country’s electricity grid.
They are also looking to understand whether these vehicles can support the electricity network and help keep costs low for customers by discharging during peak times and recharging off-peak.
The project will launch early 2019. Following a programme design and build phase, the first Optimise Prime vehicles will be on the road during the second half of 2019.
The test area will include a range of urban, suburban and rural scenarios across the South East, South Central and East of England.
To help the wider industry prepare, the largest cross-industry datasets on commercial EV charging and use will be shared openly.