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EV for Business: Capacity constraints and how to avoid them

By Market Insight Team | Posted August 25, 2020

In a recent webinar for The Energyst’s EV Week, Vincent de Rul, Director of EV Solutions at EDF, discussed considerations for the management of site capacity when creating a charging infrastructure plan. Vincent shares his view for businesses looking to begin their transition to Electric Vehicles (EVs).

Transport is the UK­­’s largest contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and so is a key area of focus for net zero initiatives. The UK Government has been seeking views on bringing forward the end to the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans from 2040 to 2035, or earlier if a faster transition looks possible. The decision to move the timeline was taken after experts suggested that the original 2040 date was too late if the country wanted to meet its goal of being carbon neutral by 2050. In light of this deadline, many businesses will be looking at their own net zero initiatives and beginning the process of evaluating and planning for a transition to EVs.

For those organisations developing their strategy and looking to understand the EV eco-system [see diagram below], it’s useful to consider this as a component within a much larger energy system which includes not only the EV, chargepoints and supporting technologies (such as Vehicle-to-Grid) but also gives wider consideration to crucial elements like power supply, energy efficiency and storage, as well as the management of these through flexible systems. All of these components play a part in the journey to net zero and fleet/energy managers should be looking to understand how they link together and can be optimised as part of their net zero transition.


Diagram: The EV Eco-system as part of the net zero transition


Consider capacity constraints when developing your EV strategy

Once you’ve begun developing an EV strategy and identified your requirements for a vehicle transition plan, you’ll also need to create a charging infrastructure plan. Mapping and overlaying your requirements onto vehicle leasing or procurement cycles will help to inform charging infrastructure requirements with charging speeds, energy contracts and capacity needs all factoring into the planning process.

Having an understanding of your on-site charging requirements will, in turn, help to inform whether or not you have sufficient electrical capacity or whether you may need to consider workarounds. If there is enough capacity from the existing supply, no network reinforcement will be required. However, if any reinforcement is needed, it will be your local DNO who will provide this.


How can businesses minimise additional infrastructure investment?

Load Management Systems (LMS)

In the first instance, and dependent on charging requirements, businesses should look to optimise the use of chargepoints through a LMS. There are two types of system: static and dynamic.

A static load management system evenly distributes power for all charging stations across several connected EVs, no matter how many of the individual EVs are charging. Each charging station is allocated the same charging power.

In contrast, a dynamic load management system can intelligently reduce and divert the power to where it’s needed. For example, reducing the load for charge points where vehicles have been plugged for longer to ensure that those with the least amount of charge can catch up. This type of system can also be programmed to identify “VIP” charge points – so, if for example an emergency vehicle parks in a chargepoint bay, they will be prioritised for charging – by using VIP RFID card. 

By using LMS to balance the load, your business can ensure that additional charging processes don’t cause the connection capacity to be exceeded, saving you additional grid expansion and operating costs.


Taking a Net Zero Approach to managing capacity

Energy Efficiency

First and foremost, energy efficiency should be at the top of the agenda for any organisation working to support the UK’s net zero ambition. Optimising energy use on site will also ensure better, more efficient use of the capacity that is already available.


On-site Generation

Using on-site generation like solar or wind assets, to power your chargepoints could be a solution to capacity constraints. This energy can then be used on-site, reducing the imported energy demand and/or earning revenues from flexibility services (like EDF’s PowerShift). If coupled with a battery, this technology can offer significant savings potential. However, it’s important to remember; as with all renewable sources, there can be an unpredictable supply.


Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) technology

Using new technology such as V2G chargers can present another opportunity for managing capacity and costs. By charging your V2G-capable vehicles when your import energy is cheap (e.g. overnight or from a generation source such as solar/wind) and discharging from the car back into the site when energy costs are at their peak (typically 4-7pm) the need to import expensive power can be avoided. By utilising the EV to power your site, you can avoid having to import as much energy as you would normally. This reduces the Maximum Demand drawn from the grid, and can avoid the need to pay for costly reinforcement or additional KVA.

Taking this approach will require careful management of fleet. It will call for the vehicles to be parked, charged and available to be utilised during the peak hours of 4-7pm weekdays (and potentially other times). A single vehicle’s storage only offers a short timescale before the energy is depleted and needs to be re-charged. So, multiple vehicles would be required to truly benefit from V2G in a commercial environment.


Battery Storage

Battery storage as a solution could take the form of direct connection to a grid-scale battery storage network (like the type of project that Pivot Power, part of EDF Renewable, is developing in the UK) or utilisation of smaller scale on-site battery assets.

Smaller scale on-site battery assets allow you to charge your battery when your import energy is cheaper and discharge from the battery when energy costs are at their peak, helping you to avoid the need to import expensive power from the grid.

Utilising battery storage in this way reduces the maximum demand being drawn from the grid, and can avoid the need to pay for costly reinforcement or additional KVA. This also offers a temporary resilience against outages to the main incoming supply.


Turning your strategy into a reality

For any fleet or energy manager looking to further explore the opportunities that EVs may present for their business, you don’t have to do it alone. Working with a reputable partner who can help you turn your EV strategy into a reality is the first step in ensuring you create an EV strategy built to meet the needs of your business, now and in the future.

At EDF, our team can support you in defining the best options to electrify your fleet and identify your site capacity requirements.  We'll help you in navigating and implementing the option that’s right for you, as well as defining the right EV charging infrastructure. If you need to, commission a survey of your site(s) to explore these options further and don’t be afraid to consider other problem-solving opportunities.

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