Accelerating EVs with Rapid Charging Stations
Electric vehicles are growing in popularity but still limited by the necessity for nearby charging stations and long layover times. Scarlett Evans speaks to Pivot Power CEO Matt Allen about the firm’s plans to roll out high-capacity, rapid charging stations
UK ENERGY COMPANY PIVOT POWER IS PARTNERING WITH NATIONAL GRID TO DEVELOP THE WORLD’S FIRST 2GW GRID-SCALE BATTERY NETWORK AND RAPID ELECTRIC VEHICLE (EV) CHARGING STATIONS IN THE UK. THE PROJECT, WHICH WILL COST AROUND £1.6M, INVOLVES THE DEVELOPMENT OF ELECTRICITY SUB-STATIONS AROUND THE COUNTRY, WHICH WILL BE CONNECTED TO EXTRA-HIGH-VOLTAGE TRANSMISSION SYSTEMS.
Here, Scarlett Evans speaks with Pivot Power CEO Matt Allen about the company’s plans and the role of EVs in helping to achieve green energy targets.
Matt Allen, CEO of Pivot Power
/ Please could you explain the grid-scale EV network concept? /
We currently have 45 sites of transmission connected to sub-stations throughout the country, each of which is capable of hosting – in proximity of up to a 5km radius – up to 100 EV chargers. Over the last week or so, there’s been some potential confusion over whether we are a facilitator of electric vehicles or more concerned with electrifying transportation in its broadest form. And our project is essentially the latter, attempting to electrify the domestic and the public sectors of transport, such as personal consumer vehicles or buses and commercial van fleets.
We believe that over the next 15 years the necessity for more power to go towards the electrification of transport sites will increase more and more, and as such our model is focused on knocking over the first domino of securing large amounts of power on a series of sites and consuming the cost of the connection charge into the transmission system.
/ When are the initial EV stations due to be up and running? /
We hope that our site on the south coast will be operational by the second quarter of 2019. We will have the first ten stations funded and operational over the next 18 months, and the rest of the pipeline [45 stations] over the next five years.
/ How did you choose the charging hub locations? /
We had to take a variety of factors into account. A major one was the availability of power on the sub-stations, though another was whether the National Grid had land that would be able to physically host the battery itself. The third was the proximity of the sites to population densities, and finally we also examined public data on EVs to date, looking at forecasts for future EV sales and considering whether there is enough demand in the region to be effective.
We wanted this to be a national network. The National Grid does not own and operate sub-stations in Scotland so you’ll see a vacancy of focus there, though this is something we want to address once we have the capacity. I’ll be the first to admit this is an England-focused strategy right now; however, I feel we’re moving in the right direction for the industry in our addressing range anxiety issues for both the retail and public transport consumers.
/ What’s your hope for the project? /
We will grow in scale and deploy our network and pipeline as the demand for EVs goes up, and as the demands for balancing services increase as well – a larger penetration of renewables into the system will require more balancing, and so on. In that way we have a kind of two-pronged approach to the business model and investment case, which involves the balancing of the grid on one side and the electrification of transport on the other.
It’s certainly a long-term plan, though I would challenge people who don’t think that EVs are something of the present. We’re seeing more being purchased, more coming into production lines. I believe we can accelerate the UK’s upcoming ban on petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 if we as an industry put our heads together and align our ambitions.
/ Do you think the network could grow to other places beyond the UK? /
Not surprisingly, we have been approached by other network operators – European, Western and Asian – who like the business model and want to know if we could apply it to their systems. However, I’m wary of taking our eye off of the plans here in the UK. I want us to have an evidence-based plan, let’s see if this will work here and then see what future opportunities exist off the back of it.
/ How important are EVs in helping to achieve climate targets? /
I would say that tackling transport’s contribution to carbon emissions is hugely important. In an ideal world the carbon intensity of the grid in the UK will be far more renewable-dependant than it is today, however, before we get to that point we need to address the fact that people are not going to buy EVs until they have the confidence that they can drive from A to B without any concerns of having the red light come on, and without a fear of that range anxiety.
/ By how much would the rapid charging reduce the layover period? /
A 7KW charger would charge a 100KWh battery in c. 17 hours, and a 150KW charger would charge the same vehicle in 45 minutes. And as we move to even more rapid charging, a 350KW charger would be under 20 minutes.
/ So, do you own an EV? /
I do not. I am a perfect example of someone who would love to but doesn’t yet have the confidence that I could travel long distances in an EV. Last year I trialled a Tesla and I have to say, the fear that you may not have enough of a charge to make the journey is a horrible feeling. I’m sure roadside services will get updated over the next few years, but having rapid chargers is incredibly important.