Charging up for a green future

Published:  10 February, 2012

Myles Barker,Technical Specialist for Cenex, looks at some of the findings from the involvement in, Government-funded trials,such as the Low Carbon Vehicle Procurement Programme (LCVPP) and Plugged-in Places (PiP) Scheme.

Electric Vehicles (EVs) now offer a viable transport option. However, the extent to which they can deliver on UK government targets, such as carbon emissions savings of 34% by 2020, depends on how successful they are with fleet managers. Cenex, the Centre of Excellence for low carbon vehicles and fuel cell technologies, is supporting the burgeoning UK community of EV pioneers.

Low Carbon Vehicle Procurement Programme (LCVPP)

Cenex-supported vehicle trials such as the LCVPP have enabled the deployment of electric vans in the Midlands; seven vehicles are on trial with the University of Warwick (UoW) and Nottingham City Council (NCC), with five and two Smith Edison Electric Transit vans, respectively.

Talking about the trial vehicles; Paul Wood, a Fleet Manager at NCC, said their drivers were “remarkably surprised at how well the vans drive.” Graham Hine, a Transport Manager for UoW, said: “The vans we have fit into our operations perfectly.” He also added that he could replace a number of vehicles in his fleet with electric vans.

Supporting this, Graham said: “We wanted to be involved in new technologies and saw LCVPP as an opportunity to acquire electric vans with financial support.” Graham also pointed out that electric vans are “most definitely” suited to campus delivery and maintenance duties and are convenient because they save time. “They're not having to go off to a petrol station to refuel during the working day and can just park it up, plug it in and leave it.”

The LCVPP has provided funding to make up the difference in cost of EVs over conventionally fuelled vehicles. Real-world data collected from LCVPP electric vans, and analysed through a sophisticated Total Cost of Ownership model by Cenex, has shown that CO2 and fuel cost savings can be made In addition, both NCC and Coventry City Council (CCC) have two and four Mitsubishi i-Miev Electric cars on trial in pool car duties.

Speaking about the operation of EVs in Nottingham, Paul Wood said: “For the applications we've put them in, they seem to be doing fine.” However he did also point out that he thought that their purchase cost is the drawback. “The manufacturers have got to really look at the price.”

Regarding Coventry's experience, Chris Coyle, a Fleet Manager at CCC, said: “Our drivers were pleasantly surprised at how pleasantly the vans drove, but training is required to encourage the drivers to drive EVs economically.”

Coventry and Birmingham Low Emission Demonstrator (CABLED) Project

The key to successful EV use within fleet operations is vehicle management. Data from the CABLED Project, funded by the Technology Strategy Board and Advantage West Midlands to deploy EVs and charging posts, has demonstrated that the vehicles are more than capable of meeting user needs. In fact, daily journeys were, on average, only 23 miles compared with the typical maximum electric vehicle range of 70 to 100 miles. Electricity usage for charging the vehicles was typically 6kWh costing 60-80 pence (tariff dependant).

Regarding fuel costs, Chris Coyle, of CCC, said: “We use lower rate tariffs, but the drivers finish their shift during the early evening and then put them [EVs] straight on charge, so it could be that they are fully charged before the cheaper tariff kicks in. We possibly need to look at time-shifting to take advantage.”

Plugged-in-Places (PiP)

Cenex and the Central Technology Belt (CTB) are assisting the rollout of EV charging infrastructure in the Midlands, building upon the 36 EV charging posts fitted under the CABLED programme.

The Midlands Plugged-in Places (PiP) Scheme, funded by the Government's Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV), aims to help local authorities, public bodies, private businesses and Homeowners fit EV charging equipment to enable EV operation and address range anxiety.

Cenex is providing organisations hosting charging posts with 40% match-funding and advice on the procurement, installation and use of EV charging posts. The PiP scheme is aiming is to furnish the region with 13 quick, and 500 fast chargers equipped with the latest connectors, along with safety and communications technology. The 7kW fast chargers will deliver a full charge to a Nissan Leaf in around four hours with 50kW quick chargers replenishing an EV battery from empty to 80% in around 30 minutes.

Under PiP, Cenex and the CTB are currently processing a significant number of applications for charging posts with many more applications under development. A public procurement framework hosted by Birmingham City Council aims to make the choice of charging equipment both easy and affordable for interested parties.

Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Grant Programme (AFIGP)

Coventry is to become one of the first UK cities to trial electric buses under AFIGP (managed by Cenex and funded by OLEV). The Coventry park and ride scheme has seen charging posts fitted in its car park capable of fully charging EVs within eight hours (standard charge from flat).

There are also two quick chargers rated at 25kW that will be used to charge bus battery packs when the scheme is in operation this Autumn. Alex Dickson, Project and Sector Development Officer at CCC, said: “The electric park and ride project is a key element of our integrated low carbon transport plan and we're delighted to be able to showcase it –the bus charging facilities– to other local authorities.” CCC is keen to help other EV pioneers. Alex Dickson said: “We're absolutely happy to share our experiences with interested parties.”

One key element to charging EVs is the time at which the user plugs in and turns on. Results analysed by Cenex from the past year of the CABLED Project have shown that there are two peaks of plugin times for domestic charging; one at around 19:00 and the other at 22:00.

However, charging EVs in the early evening does not make environmental or economic sense. This is because electricity generators utilise fossil fuels, the worst polluters, at peak demand times. Plugging in at these peak times can result in around 10-30% more emissions per kWh (summer to winter) than if the EV were charged between the hours of 23:30 and 04:30. Now thinking economically, EV charging at night makes most sense due to lower cost tariffs such as Economy 7, or EV specific/variable time tariffs.

Analysis by Cenex, using average standard and Economy 7 prices (June 2011), has shown that shifting to night-time charging could mean cost savings of around ÂŁ150 per annum for a Smart Fortwo Electric vehicle driven in an urban environment over 12,000 miles.

Graham Hine, of UoW, said “It's habit. Our drivers charge overnight because they're using the vehicles during the day. We also benefit from a preferentially low electricity tariff, so the cost of electricity is very small.” Shifting to night-time charging can also help with electrical load management.

Demand spikes caused by switching on several electrical appliances whilst an EV is charging can be ameliorated by control equipment currently offered by charging post suppliers, where the units delay EV charging until there is enough capacity.

We can see EVs are becoming a viable low carbon transport solution for Local Authorities. Indeed, Cenex is assisting this market development by regularly publishing detailed analysis of in-fleet vehicle performance.

Also, EV charging infrastructure is rapidly expanding across the UK supported by the coalition government and delivered by organisations (including Cenex and the CTB). This progressive roll-out of convenient, joined-up infrastructure and viable EVs is providing the solid foundations for EV pioneers, who are developing their own fleets, and looking to help othersinterested in becoming part of the EV community.

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