As electric vehicle (EV) sales continue to increase, one unique project in the UK is seeking to discover if local electricity networks can cope with charging a group, or ‘cluster’, of EVs at peak times. My Electric Avenue is testing a new technology that can control the charging of the cars if there is any danger of the local electricity grid becoming overloaded.
Individuals taking part in the trial are leasing Nissan’s 100% electric LEAF for 18 months whilst trialling a new technology designed to test the effects of electric vehicle charging on the local electricity network and control the vehicle’s charging patterns if the load on the grid exceeds capacity.
My Electric Avenue set out to recruit 10 households in 10 streets across the UK to drive an all-electric Nissan LEAF for 18 months. Despite this being seen as a challenging goal, the project has exceeded its targets, with more than 200 participants taking part across My Electric Avenue’s ‘technical’ cluster and social trials, each driving a 100% electric Nissan LEAF.
In one community alone, there are more than 20 people taking part in the trial, experiencing all-electric driving.
My Electric Avenue was fortunate to discover that many people around the country were extremely enthusiastic about driving a Nissan LEAF and taking part in this ground-breaking trial. Many of these participants became ‘cluster champions’, recruiting another nine of their neighbours to join them – the minimum number required in most locations to create a cluster and to qualify to be part of the trial.
The cluster in South Shields was started by one such champion; Julie Skevington. Julie drummed up interest in her local community, encouraging her neighbours to become involved in the trial, and now a total of 23 people drive the Nissan LEAF in the area as part of the project. This is believed to be a record number of drivers of this electric car in such a small area. In fact, the group was so large that it was spread over two different feeders from the local electricity substation, to form two clusters next to each other.
Cluster champion Julie comments: “When I initially spoke to my neighbours there was a real interest in the idea of driving an electric car. Many of us have now had our cars for a year, and the overall view is that everyone is very pleased with electric car ownership. Most people want to continue driving an electric car when the trial finishes.”
Paul O’Neill, EV Manager, Nissan Motor GB said: “The all-electric Nissan LEAF is a pioneer in its own right and we’re delighted that it is playing such a major role in My Electric Avenue’s ground-breaking research.
“Not only is My Electric Avenue helping us to understand the impact of electric vehicle charging in concentrated areas, but it is also giving us a clear vision of what the streets of the future may look like, and that is very exciting.”
As well as testing new technology, My Electric Avenue is also exploring the acceptance amongst electric vehicle drivers of direct control of their charging. Of course Nissan LEAF owners can already control their own charging by pre-programming when they want their car to charge. Ideally, charging would be set for off-peak times, such as between midnight and 6am. By doing this, electric cars can help to balance out the peaks and troughs of electricity demand during a 24-hour period, as well as potentially making it even cheaper to run an electric car.
Having exceeded the recruitment targets for the project, My Electric Avenue is now in the phase of collecting data about charging, and the impact it has on the local electricity network.
In total, over 100 people were recruited to drive the Nissan LEAF as part of My Electric Avenue’s ‘technical’ cluster trials, in addition to more than 100 people in the project’s social trials.
My Electric Avenue, an Ofgem-supported project, is being delivered by EA Technology. Other project partners are Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution Limited (SSEPD) (the host Distribution Network Operator, or DNO), Nissan (EV supplier), Fleetdrive Electric (EV rental programme management), Zero Carbon Futures (charging point network developer) and Northern Powergrid (participating DNO). You can find out more about the project at http://www.myelectricavenue.info/