As you read this, I will be half way up a mountain in Portugal driving a Jaguar I-Pace. I’m recording the journey for Fully Charged, how far will it go, what’s it like to drive, how long does it take to charge. All the usual. But here’s a thing, the I-Pace has a 90-kilowatt hour battery. That’s enough energy to run the average home in the UK for 3 and a half days.
There is clearly a discussion taking place about where all the electricity will come from to power many hundreds of thousands of similar vehicles in the next couple of years, and potentially millions in the next 5 to 10 years.
One of the speakers at Fully Charged Live in June is Graeme Cooper, National Grid Project Director for Electric Vehicles, he will explain why charging tens of millions of electric vehicles isn’t a problem as long as we use a bit of common sense. Solutions are emerging all the time and one of them has just been announced by a company called Pivot Power. They are about to install a world-first 2 Gigawatt network of grid-scale batteries and rapid electric vehicle charging stations across the UK.
At 45 sites around the country Pivot Power are building 50 Megawatt hour battery systems at electricity sub stations connected directly to the extra-high-voltage transmission system. This is partly to help the Nation Grid network regulate demand spikes but the location of these systems, near towns and major roads, will also mean they can power rapid EV charging stations. Each grid connected battery system will be able to offer mass charging at competitive rates, supporting up to one hundred rapid 150KW chargers. They will also be able to support 350KW chargers when they are available in the UK. In case you haven’t heard about these, they are already being installed in Europe and will offer one the move charge speeds previously undreamt of.
To explain, the average domestic socket gives you around 3 kW and will add 4-5 miles range in an hour, the type two socket (at your house or in car parks) can deliver 7 kW which adds around 30 miles an hour, a rapid charger like those installed by Ecotricity, Chargemaster etc currently deliver 50 kW adding around 180-200 miles range an hour. A Tesla Supercharger can offer 120kW, currently the highest-powered charger around which can add up to 300 miles range in an hour.
So 350 kW is an insane amount of power adding a potential 1,000 miles range in an hour, meaning, if you could use one of these chargers on the latest Nissan Leaf for example, it would charge it from empty to full in 6 or 7 minutes. Just to be clear the only car on the horizon that can take this level of charge is the soon to be launched Porsche Mission E.
But what Pivot Power are doing is attempting to future proof the system.
One of the biggest difficulties power networks have to deal with is peaks and troughs in demand. Clearly a hundred rapid charge stations in one location being used at the same time is going to cause something you could call a bit of a peak in demand.
If you can mitigate this with seriously chunky battery storage, then you remove much of the strain on the grid. The batteries will be charged when electricity is as it’s cheapest and Pivot Power have stated that they want to supply the lowest possible cost electricity to EV drivers using their system.
And this is a crucial point and one I am now very aware of and able to take advantage of at home. Once you have a battery installed, you realise very quickly that paying for, indeed even using power at peak times when electricity is dirty and expensive is a thing of the past. I have used literally a couple of kilowatt hours of power from the grid during the evening peak period for over a year. The battery is charged during the day by solar, even in winter it can get up to 50% of it’s capacity from solar, from now until mid October I won’t use any power from them grid during the day.
So buying power when it’s cheap, selling it during peak periods is a very plausible business case for the kind of system Pivot Power are installing.
Michael Liebreich, founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, an advisor and investor in Pivot Power, said: “Renewables, batteries and electric vehicles are going to completely transform our power system, not just because they help clean up our horrible air quality and meet our climate targets, but because their costs are falling far faster than people realise."
So, in a world of grim news, this is a small bit of sunlight in an otherwise bleak landscape.
Pivot Power will start installing the first of these systems in early 2019 and we hope to cover the development of this system in coming episodes of Fully Charged.
More info on Pivot Power: https://www.pivot-power.co.uk/
And while I’m here, I just want to say that Fully Charged Live, which will be at Silverstone on the 9th and 10th of June is looking to be a really cracking event. Everything is going to be bigger and better than we dared hope. Amazing displays, amazing range of electric vehicles of every type, fascinating short talks, Q&A sessions, great food, a beer tent and a few thousand lovely people.
More info, tickets etc here: http://www.fullychargedshow.co.uk/fully-charged-live-event/