My Electric Avenue, the ground-breaking electric vehicle (EV) project led by EA Technology and hosted by Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution (SSEPD), has now signed up more than enough customers to allow it to move to the next stage of customer-based trials.
With over 100 customers now signed up to the Technical trials, this milestone allows further roll out of electric vehicles to be used in the project. Once all the cars are delivered, we’ll be able to see what the electric vehicle street of the future could look like, and discover essential learning about managing the local electricity network for this ‘real life’ scenario.
Crucially, the recruitment for the trials has succeeded because of ‘cluster champions’ in local communities taking up the challenge of recruiting at least nine other neighbours through leaflet dropping, door knocking, and even holding community coffee mornings to drum up support.
My Electric Avenue is focusing on the potential problems that can arise when a large number of EVs charge in the same street at the same time, and is the first trial that directly controls domestic EV charging to prevent underground cables and substations being overloaded. The project aims to prove a solution that would avoid the costly, time-consuming and potentially disruptive alternative of digging up roads to install higher capacity electric cables.
The successful communication around My Electric Avenue has resulted in a large number of applications to take part in this innovative, ground-breaking project. Key to this successful customer engagement has been the right mix of project partners and a fantastic ‘hook’ (the Nissan LEAF) for those taking part in the trials. Under the Technical trials programme, each individual in a cluster (or one street in many cases) will lease an all-electric Nissan LEAF at a subsidised rate for 18 months, with the aim of trialling ‘Esprit’, a new technology developed by EA Technology to monitor and control the electricity used when the car is being charged.
EA Technology has developed and is delivering the £9m project, as well as providing the technology used as part of the trial. The project has also included a number of other Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs), including Fleetdrive Electric and Zero Carbon Futures (ZCF). This is the first time a private company, EA Technology, rather than an electricity company (i.e. a Distribution Network Operator or DNO) has led and managed an Ofgem Low Carbon Networks Fund project, showing that SMEs can deliver on such projects.
Although the Technical trials are now fully subscribed, My Electric Avenue’s Social trials are still open for business. The Social trials are designed to complement the information gathered during the Technical trials and participants can lease a new 100% electric Nissan LEAF at a specially negotiated rate for 18 months. Applicants can be individuals or groups and there’s no requirement to have any technology installed in the home. Spaces in the Social trials are limited and so the cars will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
Commenting on the success of the project, Stewart A. Reid, SSEPD’s Future Networks Manager, says: “This project is critical for us as we move towards a world where electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles are the norm. Learning how to charge a large number of EVs in the same street without having to replace the cables and substations is key if we are to keep customers’ bills down.
The efforts of the team in recruiting customers have been excellent, but for me the most significant learning point so far is the ‘relative’ ease with which these clusters have been created; to me this says that we are very close to the ‘tipping point’ in the UK where EVs will be a significant part of the mix.”
Dave A. Roberts, EA Technology’s Future Networks Director, comments “When we first presented the idea for this project there was much scepticism about whether it could be achieved. Thanks to an excellent combination of partners and effective communication about the project, we have exceeded the targets set by Ofgem. This means that we can now deliver over 100 electric vehicles to our trial participants, and we look forward to sharing the learning outcomes from the project.”