Electric cars: Vehicle-to-grid gets £30m boost in UK

A 1,000 electric vehicle-to-grid project is getting under way in UK to investigate benefits for fleet owners.
Published: Wed 21 Mar 2018

Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology is set to get its biggest boost yet, with a new series of trials launching in the UK.

Essential for enabling managed charging of electric vehicles (EVs), providing a source of flexibility to the grid or powering homes and buildings, V2G is being investigated in numerous projects across the world. Normally these have the active participation of the vehicle manufacturers vying to be at the forefront of developments.

An increasing number of countries are planning to move towards all zero-emission vehicle sales in the foreseeable future, as soon as 2025 in Norway and 2040 in the UK. Thus, there is a degree of urgency in understanding and getting in place the technologies in advance of issues such as congestion these could bring.

V2G innovation

With the ambition to become a world leader in emobility, the UK government is ploughing tens of millions into research and development. There was £290m in November 2016, followed by £23m for hydrogen vehicles and £20m for EVs in 2017 and now another £30m in February.

This latest round of funding covers 21 projects, of which eight are real-world demonstrations. Indicative of the issues that are being addressed, among these is V2Street, which targets a public charging infrastructure to Londoners without an off-street capability.

Another is V2GB, with participants including system operator National Grid, the distribution network operator (DNO) Western Power Distribution and Nissan. The project aim is to establish ways to incentivise a rapid rollout of V2G technology by sharing revenue from flexibility across key players – EV drivers, smart charger owners, charging site owners such as car parks and storage aggregators.

There is also a strong focus on fleet and commercial operations, with electrification of the broader transportation sector key for meeting decarbonisation goals. V2GO led by supplier EDF Energy will test the suitability of vehicles such as mail vans and taxis for V2G and will trial possible business models. Bus2Grid aims to turn a 30-bus garage into a first of its kind V2G bus garage.

1,000 V2G trial

The largest of the projects, indeed believed to be the largest of its kind in the world, is e4Future with over £6m in funding, which will trial a 1,000 V2G fleet.

The project is aimed to evaluate a commercial offer to EV fleet customers. The chargers will be controlled by an aggregator and data will be collected to understand the technical characteristics of vehicle-to-grid charging for both the vehicles and the electricity networks.

Nissan leads the project with other participants including National Grid, the two DNOs UK Power Networks and Northern Powergrid, the San Diego headquartered V2G infrastructure and aggregator provider Nuvve, and academic partners Newcastle University and Imperial College London.

“One thousand chargers will be installed over the next three years across the electricity networks,” explains Claire Spedding, Head of Business Development at National Grid.

“Part of the demonstration project will include assessing whether EV owners are incentivised enough financially to provide power back to the grid when required and help determine if any regulatory or policy interventions are required.”

For fleet owners it could even encourage them to switch to EVs, believes Ian Cameron, Head of Innovation at UK Power Networks. “This technology could see fleets generating an additional income stream from distribution flexibility markets while they are parked in depots and car parks. Selling electricity back to the network could help boost the business case for major operators, making the large-scale adoption of electric vehicles more viable”.

Nissan and V2G

Once again the name of Nissan is at the forefront of V2G as it also stakes out a position in the home solar and energy storage market.

“We now look at our cars as so much more than products which simply move people from A to B – they are an intrinsic part of the way we consume, share, and generate energy,” says Francisco Carranza, Managing Director of Nissan Energy at Nissan Europe. “V2G introduction will change the rules of the game and make energy cheaper for everyone.”

Alongside these projects, Nissan has been involved over the past year and a half testing V2G in Denmark.

Most recently Nissan has entered into a partnership with E.ON to pilot and commercialise offers related to EV charging, V2G services and grid integration, as well as decentralised energy generation and storage solutions.

Initially the focus of activity is in Denmark. Illustrative of the new retail service opportunities that are emerging, Danish customers can access a complete package consisting of a charging station for their home and benefits from an energy flat rate to charge their Nissan EV. Similar programmes are now planned for other European countries.