The UK’s most scenic V2G chargepoint deployment?

Ignore the low hum from some of the industrial buildings.  Focus on the contrast of the pink begonias against the deep blue October sky. Focus on the green leaves of the trees starting to show the amber colours of autumn.  Absorb the noise of the splashing of the fountain into the duck pond.  And before long you will have forgotten that you’re on Loughborough University Science and Enterprise Park.

We can’t verify the claim, but we think that the vehicle-to-grid (V2G) deployment outside our office might be the most scenic in the UK. OK, perhaps the Powerloop or Sciurus projects have an installation at some splendid rural country estate that we don’t know about but even so, surely ours is still the prettiest non-domestic deployment of this innovative bi-directional charging technology?

Whilst our peaceful surroundings have nothing to do with the EV-elocity project – it is the University’s estates team we must thank for that – they do serve as a poignant and timely reminder as to what I believe to be the biggest benefactor of V2G, the environment.

As I type this, the UK’s grid carbon intensity is 194 gCO2/kWh [1], unfortunately a little over last year’s average of 181 gCO2/kWh [2] despite some good early-afternoon sunshine and moderate wind across most of the UK. To reach 0 gCO2/kWh by 2035, as per latest plans [3], then we will need much greater flexibility in demand to allow greater renewables on the system and V2G can play a significant role in this. Whilst there has been a recent boom in the grid-connected stationary battery storage market, with over 20 GW of capacity in the pipeline [1], V2G has the opportunity to provide the system with much needed clean flexibility at lower cost – something that feels particularly relevant with today’s post-COVID fuel price, nuclear plant maintenance, Anglo-French interconnector fire and low wind driven price rises.

In fact, two of National Grid’s Future Energy Scenarios expect the UK grid to have over 1 GW of V2G by 2030, and a whopping 39 GW, approximately 17% of all demand and supply-side flexibility, in the most ambitious scenario, “Leading the Way”, by 2050!

Figure 1: Flexibility in 2050, taken from National Grid’s Future Energy Scenarios [5]
However, as well as the potential to unlock lower-cost flexibility, V2G can also have a lower environmental impact than stationary battery storage; linking existing storage capacity hidden away in EVs to the grid via bidirectional charging could mean less energy required for the mining of raw materials, logistics, manufacturing and indeed operations associated with new stationary storage batteries.  In other words, sweating our existing assets more, rather than manufacturing new ones.

This “environmental business case” is weakened if the batteries used for stationary storage are second-life packs taken from EVs, but there simply isn’t the volume of supply for this to be the case at the required scale today. And even when there is, V2G can still be competitive in the market, as shown by the fact the capacity of V2G is similar in magnitude to all other forms of electricity storage (including other technologies such as pumped hydro and other innovations such as a compressed air systems).

Last week, the EV-elocity project moved into Stage 3b: Dynamic Carbon Control. In doing so the chargepoint at Loughborough along with all others in the project started to charge and discharge vehicles based solely on the grid carbon intensity forecast; charge when grid power is green and discharge the stored low-carbon energy when it’s not.

And although this is a rather simplified view of how the network is really operated and ignores the potential for higher cost to the consumer or even risks degrading the vehicle’s battery by performing repeated cycles (more on this to come in Stage 4!), it focuses the project lens on the problem that V2G is really trying to solve.

And so whilst I’m sure the debate will rage as to whether the Loughborough University Science and Enterprise Park is the most picturesque V2G deployment, it will at least play a part in answering questions about V2G with the hope that its role in the wider initiative to decarbonise electricity networks worldwide can be larger than you might think.

References

  1. Data taken from Carbon Intensity at 13:55 on 11/10/2021
  2. 2020 was UK’s ‘greenest year on record’ for power generation as renewables surge and coal declines | The Independent
  3. UK electricity generation to be fossil fuel free by 2035, says Boris Johnson | Energy industry | The Guardian
  4. UK sees record-breaking submitted battery storage capacity under planning in Q2 2021 – Energy Storage News (energy-storage.news)
  5. download (nationalgrideso.com)

Blog by Samuel Abbott. Sam is a Technical Specialist in the Energy Systems & Infrastructure team at Cenex. He has been using his expertise in EV charging hardware, including V2G, to manage the installations of the eNovates units for the EV-elocity project

 

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