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EV revolution is revving up

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Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

UK – The immediate future of electric vehicles is a chicken and egg conundrum. With a recognised and reliable nationwide infrastructure there would be every reason for a mass take-off in sales. But without major demand there’s minimal infrastructure, so relatively low levels of interest in electric vehicles (EVs).

We have the technology to kickstart the EV revolution: using an eBay-style platform to enable peer-to-peer energy trading, making charging an anywhere, anytime proposition. But current energy trading regulation continues to be a barrier.

The direction of travel in policy is clear enough. The Department for Transport’s Road to Zero strategy means all new cars and vans sold will be 100% emissions free by 2035. At the same time there is a UK Government commitment to requiring all new homes to have a charge-point from 2025. A budget of £400 million has been set aside for developing a charging infrastructure, with employers also due to be given an installation grant of £500 per socket (almost double the grant in the previous policy in this sector).

Capacity has been highlighted as a problem. The overall push for meeting carbon emissions targets means electrification across all spheres of life and not just transport, and the potential for local shortfalls in electricity supplies without major investment in network reinforcement. 

This is where the modern ‘prosumer’ model comes in. Consumers aren’t passive, they have the ability to generate their own power, in their own home through solar panels or other means, as well as being able to store electricity in the battery of their electric vehicle. A system of individuals and smaller businesses buying and selling energy informally across local areas – rather than relying on a centralised and relatively monolithic framework of supplies – has real potential for relieving the strain on the power system, particularly during normal business hours. 

With peer-to-peer (P2P) energy trading, each individual negotiates directly with other actors without any intermediary.

The question facing the team at Cranfield was whether it would be possible to create a P2P energy trading platform specifically for EVs, allowing for EVs with surplus battery energy to trade with nearby EVs in public car parks.

This is the logic behind the idea: EV drivers who are also householders able to generate their own power will mostly charge their vehicles at home with minimum to no costs; these households are also in a position to sell their excess generated power back to the power grid at a pre-set price – which may mean a low return. Meanwhile, the EV drivers who don’t have household-generators, charged their vehicles at home premises or a car park at a much higher rate than the feed-in price. So if these two groups of EVs are able to exchange energy at a mid-market electricity price, both groups will get a better price for them, as well as the potential for more convenience.

The Department for Transport has fully funded an early-stage research project into developing an electric vehicle app (APP EV) as part of its support for finding new ideas to improve the UK’s transport systems. In this way, eBay style trading is opened up to communities, their EV drivers and visitors from outside the area with EVs: providing the basis of motivation and incentives to contribute to a charging infrastructure. For example, EV drivers can trade their excess charge to local bidders in public car parks; small community businesses like shops and cafes with parking spaces have a new revenue stream from providing places to charge and trade; households with excess energy from solar panels make more money. Importantly, the APP EV provides confidence to drivers planning longer journeys and worried about the limited range of their vehicles and access to charging points, a map of support. 

Research has been carried out to model the behaviours of drivers with an excess of energy in their batteries and those who need to (and can) charge their vehicle during some daily stops within their scheduled trips. Collecting all the available offer/demand information among vehicles parked in the same area at the same time, an aggregator determines an optimal peer-to-peer price per area and per time slot, allowing customers with excess of energy in their batteries to share with benefits this good with other users who need to charge their vehicles during their daily trips. The results show that, when applying the proposed APP EV trading system, the energy cost paid by these drivers at a specific time slot and in a specific area can be reduced up to 30%. 


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Chao Long
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Dr Chao Long has been a Lecturer in Digital Energy Systems at Cranfield University since September 2019. His research focuses on modelling, analysis and optimisation of smart power distribution grids and community energy systems. These include management of local energy from solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, batteries and electric vehicles using novel concepts of peer to peer (P2P) energy trading and Blockchain distributed ledger technology. Dr Long is working closely with industry and academic collaborators at national and international levels.

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