Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Oxford EVs to form part of integrated smart grid project

Steve Rogerson
May 5, 2020



The city council of UK university town Oxford has taken delivery of its first electric vehicles that will form part of smart grid project showcasing an integrated approach to decarbonising power, heat and transport across the city.
 
The Energy Superhub Oxford (ESO) project funded the vehicles. The three-year £41m project announced last year has received £10m from the government’s Prospering from the Energy Revolution Challenge.
 
Oxford City Council’s wholly-owned company ODS, which operates like a social enterprise, has added the six EVs to its fleet, with a further 27 – including cars, a street sweeper, excavator and mix of different sized vans – due to be delivered over the next three to four months. It aims to electrify a quarter of its 330 fleet by 2023.
 
Users of the vehicles have reacted positively and enjoy driving them, which has led to buy in from numerous other ODS staff wishing to be part of the trials for new vehicles coming onto the fleet. Part of the support to these employees will be to provide home charging facilities where required.
 
The project is led by Oxford City Council and Pivot Power – an EDF Renewables UK company – and includes Habitat Energy, Invinity Energy Systems, Kensa Contracting and the University of Oxford.
 
The project is allowing the council to evaluate its existing fleet and assess its strategy for electrification based on usage, range, emissions, costs and suitable electric replacement.
 
The project is also funding a try-before-you-buy scheme for Oxford’s Hackney Carriage drivers with Electric Blue, which aims to accelerate the switch to zero emission capable Hackney Carriage taxis. The scheme enables drivers to trial one of two models – an all-electric Nissan Dynamo or an LEVC – for a two or four-week period, with the aim of reducing barriers to adoption.
 
Two electric LEVC taxis are already operating in Oxford, with two more on the road shortly and several drivers making purchasing enquiries. From 2025, drivers will only be able to get a licence if they have a zero-emission capable cab.
 
To kickstart the city’s switch to EVs, Pivot Power is installing what is said to be the world’s most powerful charging network, delivering up to 25MW of power via an 8km private wire network around the south of Oxford. This network will connect public charging facilities at Redbridge Park & Ride directly to National Grid’s high voltage transmission network. It has capacity to expand with EV adoption and provide power for local businesses seeking to electrify their fleets, from logistics companies to bus operators.
 
The Park & Ride EV public Superhub aims to include 20 charge points ranging from rapid (50kW+) to ultra-rapid (150kW+), capable of charging a car in 15 to 50 minutes, and 30 fast charge points (minimum 7kW) which can charge a car over a period of hours, for example while Park & Ride users are at work or shopping in the city centre.
 
Pivot Power is also developing what it says is the world’s largest ever hybrid energy storage system, comprising a 50MW lithium-ion battery and a 2MW vanadium redox flow battery, supplied by Invinity Energy Systems, which will share the grid connection with the private wire network. This hybrid system will combine the high-power capabilities of a lithium-ion battery with the heavy cycling, non-degrading characteristics of vanadium redox flow technology to create an innovation that will meet the complex demands of multiple energy applications.
 
“Pivot Power’s purpose is to accelerate the UK’s transition to a clean, electric future,” said Tim Rose, ESO programme manager at Pivot Power. “The smart power network we are installing in Oxford will deliver flexible, reliable power at scale to fast-track EV adoption. As part of EDF Renewables UK, our aim is to replicate this model throughout the UK, supporting greater renewable generation and delivering power where and when it is needed to enable mass-scale, rapid electric vehicle charging.”
 
Habitat Energy’s machine-learning technology will optimise the system and help balance the grid by enabling greater use of clean, renewable energy sources, while carrying out trading on the day ahead, intraday and balancing mechanism markets. It will also predict overall demand on the private wire network to support the management of future fleet charging.
 
“Oxford is continuing to show leadership in tackling the climate emergency,” said councillor Tom Hayes, cabinet member on Oxford City Council. “With this project we’re encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles and move to zero carbon. Energy Superhub Oxford gives Oxford strengths that no other city currently has: the world’s most powerful charging network and the world’s largest ever hybrid battery, and as a result we can accelerate our electric vehicle charging infrastructure for businesses and residents. It also allows the city council to provide support on top of what we’re already offering to Hackney Carriage taxi drivers looking to move to electric. I am looking forward to seeing this project accelerate Oxford towards zero.”
 
ESO is also helping Oxford residents benefit from low carbon heating. The project is supporting the installation of Kensa Contracting’s low carbon heating, which combines shoebox ground source heat pumps with smart controls and a time-of-use tariff to optimise heat production for cost and carbon savings.
 
The first 60 properties will be installed with affordable housing provider Stonewater in Blackbird Leys with work due to start as soon as possible. ESO aims to roll out this technology to 300 properties in and around Oxford over the next two years.
 
To assess the impacts of the project the University of Oxford is building a computer model for large-scale batteries, able to simulate the behaviour of thousands of cells simultaneously. Once the battery is operational, the model will be matched to the measured data, with insights used to improve the system’s performance.
 
The university will also work closely with charge point users and households who have received low carbon heating to measure the benefits and advise on how they can be replicated, both in the UK and abroad.
 
“Energy Superhub Oxford is a key component of the Prospering from the Energy Revolution programme,” said Rob Saunders, deputy challenge director at UK Research & Innovation. “Clean energy, delivered across smart and efficient local networks will play a major role in achieving the UK’s net zero goals by 2050. ESO demonstrates a model for cities that can be replicated nationally to cut carbon and improve air quality. By integrating innovative technologies for maximum impact it’s demonstrating the opportunity to harness the energy transition for lasting environmental and economic benefit.”