The Great Storm Henry Blackout Saga

Regular readers will realise that here at V2G UK we take an unhealthy interest in power cuts, or outages as they call them on the other side of the Atlantic. Not least that’s because we suffered an extended lack of mains electricity ourselves not so very long ago!

We recently followed the progress of the controversially named “Storm Jonas” along the eastern seaboard of the United States using helpful information provided online by Distribution System Operators (DSO using the generic term, or ISO if you’re from the US!) such as Duke Energy. Here’s an example:

Since “Storm Henry” was officially named by the UK’s Met Office a couple of days ago, and is due to arrive over on this side of the North Atlantic today, we thought we’d undertake a similar exercise for the western seaboard of the United Kingdom this week. However there is a fly in the blackout ointment. After perusing the web sites of the Distribution Network Operators (DNO in the Queen’s English) most likely to be affected by Storm Henry it seems none of them provide the summary information available in the top left hand corner of Duke Energy’s power outage map, including in particular “Active outages” and “Affected customers”.

Following some conversations with the DNOs on Twitter it appears as though we’ll need to keep track of a set of press releases to try and keep real-time tabs on the forthcoming Great British Blackouts. The first of these that we’ll bring to your attention is from Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution (SHEPD for short), the Scottish portion of Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution (SSEPD for short):

Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution (SHEPD) has moved to Yellow Alert after closely monitoring the development of high winds.

Our weather models anticipate Storm Henry will bring wind speeds over 90 mph in the Western Isles and Skye. All other parts of our network area will see winds reach 70-90 mph.

We have frontline and support staff standing by and we have engineers in the areas we expect to be hit by the storm.

Our customer service team has been making outbound calls to customers on our Priority Service Register in the affected areas to alert them and offer extra assistance, where required.

Members of the public should not approach fallen or damaged power lines, which may still be live.

Whilst we wait for the full force of Storm Henry to hit, here’s how the SHEPD live power cut map looks at lunchtime on Monday February 1st 2016:

Four Cities Awarded £40 million “Go Ultra Low” Funding

The United Kingdom’s Department for Transport has just announced that:

Nottingham, Bristol, Milton Keynes and London named as winners of multi-million fund to encourage drivers to go green.

Four cities have been awarded significant funds today (25 January 2016) to promote green vehicle technology after successfully bidding for a share of a multi-million pot created to support the take-up of plug-in electric cars across the United Kingdom”.

Here’s the video version of the announcement:

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:

  • These Go Ultra Low Cities have proposed exciting, innovative ideas that will encourage drivers to choose an electric car. I want to see thousands more greener vehicles on our roads and I am proud to back this ambition with £40 million to help the UK become international pioneers of emission cutting technology.
  • The UK is a world leader in the uptake of low emission vehicles and our long-term economic plan is investing £600 million by 2020 to improve air quality, create jobs and achieve our goal of every new car and van in theUK being ultra-low emission by 2040.

Third in the list of winners is Bristol, just up the M5 motorway from us here in Exeter, who were actually bidding under the banner of the “West of England”. According to this morning’s announcement:

Bristol get £7 million to offer residents free residential parking for ULEVs, access to 3 carpool lanes in the city, over 80 rapid and fast chargers across the city and a scheme encouraging people to lease a plug-in car for up to 4 weeks to help them better understand the range of benefits that electric vehicles bring.

There’s no mention anywhere in OLEV’s announcement about vehicle-to-grid or distributed storage however. Perhaps that sort of thing is still not on UK plc’s shopping list?

Ultra Fast Charging of Electric Vehicles

A recent news release from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne discusses what’s involved in “Charging an electric car as fast as filling a tank of gas”:

Electric cars will be competitive when they can be charged in the time it takes to fill the gas tank. EPFL researchers have found the solution to this problem without bringing down the power grid: intermediate storage.

Electric cars will only be truly competitive when it doesn’t take longer to charge them than it does to fill a gas tank. The storage capacity of batteries is improving exponentially, but the power grid is the weak link: how could it possibly charge thousands of cars at the same time? This is especially problematic in the case of ultra-fast charging, which requires more than 10 times more power. EPFL researchers have found the solution: intermediate storage.

It only takes a minute and a half to put enough fuel into the tank of a diesel car to run for around 1,000 kilometers. After being charged for the same amount of time, the best electric cars will only go six kilometers. The only way to make the charging process faster is to increase the power flow going in. But such a quick charge would require 4.5 MW of power – equivalent to 4,500 washing machines. This would bring down the power grid.

EPFL also provide this infographic to help explain the idea:

The release quotes Prof. Alfred Rufer from EPFL’s Industrial Electronics Lab. as follows:

We came up with a system of intermediate storage. With this buffer storage, charging stations can be disconnected from the grid while still providing a high charge level for cars. And this can be done using the low-voltage grid (used for residential electricity needs) or the medium-voltage grid (used for regional power distribution), which significantly reduces the required investment.

and goes on to explain that:

Intermediate storage is achieved using a lithium iron battery the size of a shipping container, which is constantly charging at a low level of power from the grid. When a car needs a quick charge, the buffer battery promptly transfers the stored electricity to the vehicle. The grid is not even used.

To prove the system works, the researchers at the EPFL Energy Center and Industrial Electronics Lab built a demonstrator together with their partners from the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA), the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ) and the Bern University of Applied Sciences. The demonstrator is a trailer holding the intermediate storage battery. It draws power from the low-voltage grid and, in the space of 15 minutes, provides the 20 to 30 kWh needed to charge a standard electric car battery.

If you’re technically minded the UFCEV team also provide a handy bibliography of academic papers and presentations covering the concept.

Renault and Eneco Announce Smart Charging App at COP21

As we reported yesterday, the Nissan half of the Renault-Nissan Alliance made an interesting V2G announcement at the COP21 meeting in Paris. Now it’s Renault’s turn, although this one concerns “smart charging” rather than fully fledged vehicle-to-grid technology. In a December 7th press release they said that:

Renault & Eneco collaborate on smart charging solution for electric vehicles.

  • Agreement signed between electric vehicle leader Renault and energy supplier Eneco on December 7, 2015 at COP21 Paris conference
  • Eneco will develop smart charging app for ZOE, Renault’s 100% electric compact car
  • Renault ZOE users will be able to charge their car at lower costs using renewable energy

Eneco subsidiary Jedlix will develop a version of its existing smart charging app, to adapt it to Renault ZOE. This app makes it possible to charge electric cars using renewable energy at times when the market prices are most favourable. Like at night, when the production of sustainable wind energy exceeds demand in most European countries.

As far as “lower costs” go, here’s a glimpse of V2G UK filling up a Renault ZOE 100% electric compact car 100% free of charge using renewable energy in a UK motorway service station, courtesy of Nissan & Ecotricity:

Heading back to Paris, Eneco Executive Board member Marc van der Linden said :

It is expected that there will be three million electric vehicles in the whole of Europe by 2020. To reduce CO2 emissions, it is essential that this vehicle fleet will use green power. It is also important to prevent power grid overloads as a result of peaks in demand if all the cars would be charged at the same time. Our app forms a direct link between the electric vehicle and the supply of sustainably generated energy. Consequently, the energy used for charging is more sustainable, energy supply and demand is balanced and the costs of driving an electric vehicle are reduced because users charge their cars at lower rates.

Eric Feunteun, who is Electric Vehicle Program Director at Renault, added:

Renault electric cars support the energy transition in the automotive industry as they contribute to the replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energies. With smart charging systems like the one developed by Eneco, Renault electric vehicles make a big contribution to power systems’ stability and reliability: EVs turn into an asset for the grid rather than create overload. They can store and use electricity when it is less carbon-dependent and cheapest for their owners. Our partnership with Eneco is a move towards making driving a Renault ZOE more interesting and affordable and will contribute to an electric vehicles’ scale up.

Renault’s press release continues:

A pilot test carried out by Eneco in the Netherlands demonstrates that users can save up to 15% on their electricity costs by using the app. To achieve this, all they have to do is indicate by what time the car must be fully charged and the system will automatically determine the lowest price within this time frame. The app will first be available for ZOE users in the Netherlands and soon be available in other countries where Eneco operates.

Eneco do have a UK office, but quite how Renault ZOE drivers across the UK might be able to make use of “a flexible [electricity] price negotiated electronically by computers” to save a few quid on their fuel bills whilst “prevent[ing] power grid overloads” is a mystery to me at the moment, despite the fact that I sit on committees tasked with designing international standards for such things! However, here’s Eneco’s vision of “Everyone as an Energy Supplier in 2030″:

Make sure that, if nothing else, you watch the bit at 1 minute 20 seconds which mentions that “The car plays a pivotal role as an energy storage buffer”.

Nissan Provide Power to the People! In the UK?

In what sounds a lot like a relaunch of the V2G hardware unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show back in March, a Nissan press release yesterday announced under the headline “Power to the People: Nissan and ENEL launch first smart grid trials” that:

  • Electric car to become home ‘energy hub’, allowing renewable energy to be harnessed and stored by the car
  • Nissan will commence Smart Grid trials in partnership with energy supplier, ENEL
  • More than Nissan 200,000 LEAF sold worldwide

At the 21st UN Conference on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris this week, Nissan has announced the development of an innovative Vehicle to Grid system which will allow drivers to operate as individual ‘energy hubs’ with the ability to store, use or return electricity to the grid.

Nissan will commence Smart Grid trials in partnership with multinational energy manufacturer and distributor, ENEL.

As part of the landmark partnership, Nissan and ENEL have committed to working together, to explore:

Introducing this revolutionary technology to the European market;
The extended use of ‘second life’ electric vehicles batteries for static applications;
Designing and evaluating potential affordable energy and mobility pack offers

Vehicle-to-Grid allows customers to take control of the type of energy they consume – avoiding peak tariffs and generating additional household income during peak times.

Here’s how the facelifted hardware looks, with an “Enel” badge instead of the original “Endesa” one:

Nissan and Enel also helpfully provide a couple of infographics to help explain how their “revolutionary technology” will work. Here’s the simple version:

which looks a lot like a less colourful version of the V2G banner at the top of this page! Nissan go on to say that:

Using a special two-way charger and energy management system developed by Nissan in partnership with ENEL, LEAF owners can connect to charge at low-demand, cheap tariff periods, with an option to then use the electricity stored in the vehicle’s battery at home when costs are higher, or even feed back to the grid to generate additional household income.

“Our customers are no strangers to great value, with the Nissan LEAF offering unbeatable value motoring from three cents per kilometre. Now, with the introduction of Smart Grid technologies, we can empower motorists to take control of their energy mix – stimulating greater use of renewable power, and offering significant financial rewards for those who make the switch to electric.

“The personal benefits of innovations like this are clear, but moreover, we believe that this technology could help guarantee a cleaner energy infrastructure for generations to come.”

Nissan – the world leader in EV sales with 200,000 Nissan LEAF sold worldwide – is turning a page in zero emission mobility by unlocking the full potential of its electric vehicle batteries with the ENEL two-way charging technology.

Here’s the other infographic, which shows in more detail how V2G technology might “unlock the full potential of [a Nissan LEAF's] batteries”. Click on the image to view a larger version:

Another Nissan press release mentions where those “Smart Grid trials” will take place:

The agreement with the ENEL Group will bring the first Grid Integrated Vehicles to countries where regulation allows sufficient value generation. Denmark will host the first set of trials with Germany, Netherlands and other northern European regions following suit. This endeavour is part of Enel’s and Nissan’s commitment to support the entire electric vehicle ecosystem, going way beyond the car itself and delivering new services to the power industry.

I wonder if they could be persuaded to run one here in the United Kingdom? We are a “northern European region” after all! Here at V2G UK we’re rather keen to try out the techniques hinted at by the small print in the bottom right hand corner of the picture, which reads as follows:

During high peaks where energy is drawn from the grid en masse, electric vehicles can give back power to support the national infrastructure, stabilising the energy drawn collectively by using the car as a personal power station.

Has the Door Opened to a Very Different Car Industry?

On September 18th 2015 the United States Environmental Protection Agency issued a press release in which they stated that:

Today, EPA is issuing a notice of violation (NOV) of the Clean Air Act (CAA) to Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, and Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. (collectively referred to as Volkswagen). The NOV alleges that four-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars from model years 2009-2015 include software that circumvents EPA emissions standards for certain air pollutants. California is separately issuing an In-Use Compliance letter to Volkswagen, and EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) have both initiated investigations based on Volkswagen’s alleged actions.

“Using a defeat device in cars to evade clean air standards is illegal and a threat to public health,” said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Working closely with the California Air Resources Board, EPA is committed to making sure that all automakers play by the same rules. EPA will continue to investigate these very serious matters.”

“Working with US EPA we are taking this important step to protect public health thanks to the dogged investigations by our laboratory scientists and staff,” said Air Resources Board Executive Officer Richard Corey. “Our goal now is to ensure that the affected cars are brought into compliance, to dig more deeply into the extent and implications of Volkswagen’s efforts to cheat on clean air rules, and to take appropriate further action.”

Here’s a video from The Financial Times which explains some more of the background to the story:

Four days previously Transport & Environment, who say they are “Europe’s leading NGO campaigning for cleaner transport” had issued a press release and an associated report in which they stated that:

Urban air in much of Europe is not fit to breathe, and vehicles, especially diesel cars, are the principal cause. High levels of particles, nitrogen oxides and unburned fuel create a cocktail of harmful pollution that is breathed by almost every urban European citizen. The effects are half a million premature deaths each year; a quarter of a million hospital admissions; and 100 million lost working days cumulatively costing over €900 billion. The crisis is taking place despite extensive EU laws that limit ambient air-pollution levels, total national emissions, and emissions from major sources including vehicles. The Commission has acted against 18 EU member states for breaching pollution levels but progress to tackle the problem is glacial. EU limits for air pollution are projected to be breached for at least another 15 years and levels will remain above World Health Organisation no-effect guidelines.

Following worldwide media coverage of the “VWGate” scandal, and in partial answer to the question posed in our title, The Economist certainly seems to think so. In an article in this weekend’s edition they say that:

The German carmaker’s… use of hidden software to deceive American regulators measuring emissions from diesel-engined cars has plunged VW into crisis. And as the scandal provokes further investigations it seems likely to throw into question a wider range of claims about emissions and fuel efficiency. It could thus be a blow to much of the industry—one that might be large enough to reshape it.

As well as being a threat to Germany’s export earnings, the scandal also menaces the brainchild of one of its most eminent engineers, Rudolf Diesel—at least as far as its future in cars is concerned. Diesel engines use fuel more efficiently than engines with spark plugs, and better efficiency reduces both drivers’ expenses and carbon-dioxide emissions. Those advantages have endeared diesel engines to thrifty Europeans with green governments; none too popular elsewhere in the world, they power half of Europe’s cars.

Unfortunately, the benefits come with costs. Diesel cars’ efficiency comes from burning their fuel at a higher temperature, and that means they turn more of the nitrogen in the air they use for burning into various oxides of nitrogen, collectively known as NOx. This does not have global climate effects on the same scale as those of carbon dioxide, which is the most important long-lived greenhouse gas. But it has far worse local effects, generating smogs and damaging plants and lungs. To make matters worse, the catalytic technologies used to deal with the NOx emitted by petrol engines are not well suited for use with diesels, requiring engine makers to deploy more complex and expensive alternatives. That is not a big problem for large engines like those of trucks and ships. But it is for small engines like those of cars.

In an associated editorial The Economist goes on to point out that:

The German carmaker has admitted that it installed software on 11m of its diesel cars worldwide, which allowed them to pass America’s stringent NOx-emissions tests. But once the cars were out of the laboratory the software deactivated their emission controls, and they began to spew out fumes at up to 40 times the permitted level. The damage to VW itself is immense. But the events of this week will affect other carmakers, other countries and the future of diesel itself.

VW’s skulduggery raises the question of whether other carmakers have been up to similar tricks, either to meet Europe’s laxer standards on NOx emissions or its comparable ones on fuel economy—and hence on emissions of carbon dioxide. BMW and Mercedes, VW’s two main German peers, rushed to insist that they had not.

Even if other makers of diesel vehicles have not resorted to the same level of deception as VW, the scandal could mean that these cars struggle to meet standards applied rigorously to both types of emission. Some fear that this may be the “death of diesel”. So be it. There is still scope to improve the venerable petrol engine; and to switch to cleaner cars that run on methane, hydrogen and electricity, or are hybrids. A multi-billion-dollar race is already under way between these various technologies, with makers often betting on several of them as the way to meet emissions targets. If VW’s behaviour hastens diesel’s death, it may lead at last, after so many false starts, to the beginning of the electric-car age.

Focussing on events here in the UK, The Daily Telegraph reports that:

A team of British scientists repeatedly warned the Government that emissions of a deadly pollutant from diesel cars far exceeded official safety levels. The scientists measured emissions from tens of thousands of diesel engine cars as they drove past sensors on roads in tests carried out since 2011.

The studies, funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), showed that on average diesel cars emitted four times the legal limit of dangerous NOx gases.

Their findings appear to have been ignored by successive governments which have continued to offer generous tax subsidies to encourage people to buy diesel cars, which now account for half of new cars sold in the UK.

The scientific studies of roadside emissions were carried out by a team from King’s College London and paid for by Defra. The studies showed that NOx emissions have not declined since 2006 despite increasingly stringent requirements from the European Union.

Dr David Carslaw, who led the research, said: “What our studies show is that when these vehicles are officially tested they pass the European emissions standards but when you test them on the road they on average are emitting four times more NOx pollutant.

“We expected to see really substantial reductions in NOx emissions but that has not happened. There is a huge gap between what the manufacturers report and what is actually happening.” He added: “It has been known for some time and Defra are certainly aware that concentrations [of NOx] have not decreased.”

Here’s The Telegraph’s video summary of events thus far:

They continue with a claim that:

Suggestions of collusion between governments and the motoring industry have been bolstered by an allegation from a former transport minister that David Cameron agreed to delay imposing a new emissions limit after a personal request by Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, to protect her country’s motor industry.

Norman Baker, a former Liberal Democrat MP and transport minister in the Coalition, made the claims in a new book.

“Angela Merkel rang the Prime Minister and asked him effectively to defer the arrangements that had been carefully negotiated. He agreed to that, idiotically, and got something inconsequential in return,” said Mr Baker.

Evidently it will be quite some time before all the ramifications of “VWGate” become clear. If things pan out the way The Economist are suggesting perhap the landscape of the European motor industry will look very different in a few years time? However in the short term we here at V2G UK cannot wait to discover what the likes of David Cameron, Angela Merkel, DEFRA and the DfT have to say about the matter tomorrow morning!

Hydrogen Mobility Europe Launched with €32 Million Funding

In a press release earlier today ITM Power announced that:

The most ambitious hydrogen mobility initiatives in Europe have joined forces to support the introduction of hydrogen-fuelled transport

A large coalition of European partners has launched the Hydrogen Mobility Europe project (H2ME). H2ME is co-funded with €32 million from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU). The project will support the deployment of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) and Hydrogen Refuelling Stations (HRS) across Europe.

ITM’s headline summed things up so perfectly that we’ve unashamedly plagiarised it! The Hydrogen Mobility Europe project web site still says “Full website launching soon” at the top, but does state that:

The project brings together Europe’s four most ambitious national initiatives on hydrogen mobility (in Germany, France, Scandinavia and the UK) and will:

  • Place 200 fuel cell cars (from Daimler and Hyundai) and 125 fuel cell range-extended vans (Symbio FCell collaborating with Renault) in customer hands
  • Deploy 29 state-of-the art-hydrogen stations
  • Carry out a long-term evaluation campaign to demonstrate the readiness of the technology for a mass market
  • Develop insights into the customer experience and practical challenges of rolling out the technology at a large scale, which can be used in optimising the technology during its commercial roll-out

It also includes a link to their own press release, which adds that:

H2ME is the largest European project of this nature and is based around an alliance of the four most ambitious hydrogen mobility initiatives in Europe: H2 MOBILITY Deutschland, Mobilité Hydrogène France, Scandinavian Hydrogen Highway Partnership and UK H2 Mobility.

These initiatives originally brought together the key stakeholders in the hydrogen sector (vehicle manufacturers, hydrogen refuelling station providers and Government representatives), to study and develop strategies to make hydrogen-fuelled transport a reality in the respective regions. These initiatives will now be working together to make hydrogen-fuelled transport a reality in Europe.

Under H2ME they will deploy 200 FCEVs, 125 fuel cell range-extended electric (FC RE-EVs) commercial vans and 29 new HRSs in 10 countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK) by 2019. This plan ties in with existing national level initiatives for the roll-out of a large scale hydrogen refuelling infrastructure, aimed at enabling Europe wide emission-free driving. The consortium, led by Element Energy, includes global leaders in the hydrogen and fuel cell sector, from fuel cells and car manufacturers (Daimler, SymbioFCell, Hyundai, Honda, Intelligent Energy, Nissan) and infrastructure providers (Air Liquide, BOC, H2Logic, ITM Power, Linde, McPhy Energy, OMV, AREVA, EIFER, H2 MOBILITY Deutschland, HYOP, Icelandic New Energy, Communauté d’Agglomération Sarreguemines Confluences) to data monitoring and dissemination organisations (Cenex, WaterstofNet).

The original agreements for the project were signed in July this year and the project has already delivered the first vehicles to customers in France and Germany (Daimler, SymbioFCell).

We have previously reported on BMW’s FCEV technology, developed in conjuction with Toyota, whose names are strangely absent from the above press releases. Perhaps that’s something to do with BMW’s use of “cryogenic pressure vessel technology”? Here’s BMW’s “CCH2 FCEV i8″ prototype:

We wondered back in July about the:

Wait to discover how, where and when the hydrogen infrastructure BMW refer to materialises in Europe.

The H2ME project seems to be at least a partial answer to that question. In similar vein see also our report on the UK’s Riversimple open source hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. A much less extravagent beast than either BMW’s prototype FCEV i8, or the production Tesla Model S for that matter!

Renault ZOE – An Offer You Can’t Refuse? Day 1!

A few days ago I received an unsolicited telephone call asking me if I would like to test drive any Renault car. I said yes, as long as it was possible to test the Renault ZOE in and around Exeter. I was told “Certainly sir, which free gift would you like?”. I gather this offer is by invitation only, but you can nonetheless read all about it here, where it explains that one can:

Test drive and experience any model from the Renault range before 30 September 2015 and you can choose one of three complimentary gifts. Choose from a night away for two in a choice of hotels, afternoon tea for two or a spa treatment.

That definitely seemed like too good an offer to refuse, so I didn’t! The first thing I do at times like this is to take a look at Robert Llewellyn’s always entertaining reviews of electric vehicles on his Fully Charged show. Here’s the one for the Renault ZOE, recorded in 2013:

and here are a few of Robert’s bullet points concerning the ZOE:

  • It’s a small car. It has a really big boot, which is a surprise.
  • It’s got enough oomph to “get you out of trouble”.
  • A range of between 80 and 120 miles.
  • It’s much lighter than the Nissan LEAF.
  • It’s got a really clever heating system, that uses a heat exchanger, and it can also do the other way round. It’s 3 times more energy efficient than conventional heaters and air conditioning systems.
  • It has a 22 kWh battery.
  • It really holds the road well.
  • It’s got very good visibility.
  • When you buy this car it’s much, much cheaper than any other electric car that’s been on the market.
  • When you buy this car you don’t buy the batteries. The batteries belong to Renault, and they rent you the batteries.
  • It is a really nice car to drive. It’s a really simple car to drive.
  • It comes with a special car rental deal. If you buy this car and then you want to “Go to Scotland” or “Go to the South of France”, then you ring up and you book a car and it gets delivered to your house and you’ve got a rental internal combustion engine (ICE) car and you go on holiday [in that instead].

So far so good then, and a couple of days later we had a short drive around the Marsh Barton trading estate in Exeter. We both took our turn at driving the ZOE, and Kasia liked it a lot. Daniel Mann, the Renault Sales Manager at Bristol Street Motors in Exeter, explained that their most attractive offer at the moment is a two year PCP deal for £79 down and then £79/month, which doesn’t include the battery. The small print explains that “Battery hire is £55 per month for 750 miles per quarter“. That also sounds very much like an offer one cannot refuse, but it was at that point that I had to explain our particular circumstances to Dan. The ZOE seems to us like an excellent way of driving a few tens of miles to work and back, but V2G’s home, office and laboratory are all in the same building. We don’t do a daily commute, but we do occasionally drive to Bristol Airport, we do occasionally go on business trips to the far side of London, and we do from time to time go surfing on the north coast of both Devon and Cornwall. Our short test drive hadn’t given us much of a feel for how the ZOE would be able to cope in those situations. As Robert explains in the video above we could always hire a more conventional car as and when required, but then we’d hardly ever use the ZOE!

We had a chat to Marc Seabridge, Bristol Street Motors EV specialist (pictured below), and explained that I’d be dropping Kasia off at Bristol Airport the following weekend and then returning to Exeter. I wondered whether we could borrow the ZOE to do that trip, in an endeavour to discover if it was fit for our particular purposes. Marc said yes! When we picked the car up at 11:00 on Friday he lent us a couple of RFID cards so that we could charge the ZOE en route, one for ChargeMaster’s Polar network and one for Ecotricity’s Electric Highway:

The ZOE’s lithium ion battery was about 70% full when we picked it up, so we thought we’d get the hang of charging an EV at a public fast charger by heading straight to Exeter Services, just off the M5 motorway. That’s where our troubles began!

Try as we might, and even with lots of telephone assistance from James Cocks, the Service Manager at Bristol Street Motors, we couldn’t persuade the ZOE to successfully connect to the Electric Highway type 2 fast charger. Here’s what the problem looked like:

Whatever we tried, there was no way we could persuade a little green tick to show itself. Chastened, we headed back to Marsh Barton to top up the ZOE at one of BSM’s own charging points:

Whilst we waited I telephoned the Electric Highway helpline and explained what we’d discovered. I was told that Ecotricity were already aware of the problem, but they couldn’t tell me when it might be fixed. It seems they have quite a few non functional chargers, and not many engineers available to repair those that cannot be restored to full health via a remote connection from Ecotricity’s offices. Here’s a graphical demonstration of the problem:

To be continued……..

Nissan GB Announce 30 kWh LEAF

Carlos Ghosn hinted at this during the Nissan annual shareholder’s meeting in Yokohama in June, and it has now come to pass. In a press release yesterday Nissan GB announced:

The introduction of the LEAF 30 kWh – an updated Nissan LEAF that gives drivers 155 miles of motoring range, beating all of its competitors in the segment.

This remarkable achievement – one that opens up a new world of opportunity for drivers – is made possible thanks to the introduction of a new 30kWh battery. The new battery is the highlight of an update package that will see the 2016MY LEAF 30 kWh reinforce its position as the most capable and practical electric vehicle in the world, and with the best value. The longer range significantly broadens the LEAF’s appeal – making it a true alternative to an internal combustion engine vehicle for thousands of motorists and reinforcing its position as the world’s best electric car.

Here’s how the go farther 2016 LEAF looks:

Based on our recent EV road tests it seems extremely unlikely that it will actually average 155 miles per charge in real world driving on British roads. Whilst increased range is of course very welcome, here at V2G UK we’re most interested in the new battery technology that enabled that improvement. On that topic Nissan had this to say:

The LEAF’s new 30kWh battery delivers a longer range with no compromise on internal packaging. Available on Acenta and Tekna trim grades, it has exactly the same exterior dimensions as existing 24kWh unit and only a modest 21 kg increase in weight. The result? A car that goes significantly further while offering the same practicality and usability as previous versions.

Key to the new battery’s higher performance is an update to its internal design and chemistry. The introduction of Carbon, Nitrogen and Magnesium to the electrodes improves performance, while the change to the cell layout also contributes to the gain. Indeed, Nissan is so confident about the performance and reliability of the new 30kWh battery that the capacity will be covered by an eight year, 100,000 mile warranty.

By all means read all about the other new features of the 2016 LEAF, but that last sentence holds the key for us, since it underlines the message we received at a Nissan vehicle-to-grid workshop, also in June of this year:

Nissan’s battery electric vehicle “warranty doesn’t prohibit V2G” and the “impact [of V2G] on the battery is insignificant”.

If like us you’re now wondering “where, when and how much” Nissan GB have this to say:

Sales of the model year 2016 Nissan LEAF 30kW will begin in the UK in December 2015. Priced from £24,490 for the Acenta trim, the LEAF 30kW is available for just £1,600 more than the equivalent LEAF with a 24kW battery.

I don’t know about you, but we can’t wait!

Have StoreDot Uncovered the Electric Vehicle Holy Grail?

Israeli company StoreDot announced last month:

A new round of financing of $18 million for its new Electric Vehicle business unit, bringing the total funding to-date to $66 million. Investors in this round include mostly existing investors such as Norma Investments Limited, representing Roman Abramovich and Samsung Ventures. Other existing investors also include Singulariteam.

This round of funding is centered on the development and commercialization of the EV business unit. One of the company’s immediate goals is to build the first ever instantly-charging car prototype. Additionally, this funding will allow new hiring and additional labs for the new business unit.

In the associated “FlashBattery” section of their web site they point out that:

StoreDot is developing a new type of electric-car battery consisting of specially synthesized organic compounds – the same innovative materials used in its FlashBattery for mobile devices. While the charging experience is similar to fueling a gasoline car, EV FlashBattery cost of ownership is only half per mile compared to existing electric-vehicle batteries.

A significant and sustainable technological breakthrough, EV FlashBattery charges fully in 5 minutes, providing 300 miles (480 km) of driving distance. This fast charging technology shortens the amount of time drivers will have to wait in line to charge their cars, while also reducing the number of charging posts in each station, and considerably cutting the overall cost of owning an electric car.

EV FlashBattery’s remarkably fast charging rate is achieved due to StoreDot’s novel materials, comprising thousands of cells assembled and packed in a single battery module. When fully charged, the EV FlashBattery stores enough energy for a 300 mile (480 km) range on a 5 minute charge.

Allowing for less frequent battery replacement due to its increased number of cycles, EV FlashBattery results in a 50% cost reduction per mile over the electric vehicle’s lifetime, compared to existing battery technologies

As if all that isn’t exciting enough for you StoreDot point out in a related article that:

A country that is highly dependent on oil, China is responsible for nearly 25% of worldwide production [of emissions].

Following announcements by both the EU and the U.S. in the fall of 2014 to significantly slash GHG emissions by 2025, the Chinese government, too, pledged to reduce greenhouse emissions and to eliminate its reliance on imported oil by shifting away from conventional gasoline-powered vehicles and stimulating the use of renewable energy.

Despite government subsidies, demand for alternative-energy vehicles in China has been slow, and as of September 2014, the country had reached only 12% of its target for alternative-energy vehicles to be introduced by 2015.

This stems from several factors. First, as mentioned above, there are insufficient charging stations, which is holding back the adoption of EVs in the country.

Secondly, following the plunge in the price of crude oil in June 2014, gasoline prices have gradually gone down, leading to a decrease in the incentive to use EVs. This has led many EV owners in China to run their cars mostly on gasoline, which means that the electric capability is largely wasted, thus proving counterproductive regarding the environment.

A third factor is “range anxiety” – the driver’s fear of running out of power before reaching the nearest charging station – which is also an obstacle for electric-car adoption.

StoreDot FlashBattery technology addresses these issues by providing a driver experience similar to fuelling (without the fumes). Demand for EVs may increase substantially once the drivers are exposed to StoreDot’s 5-minute charging solution.

Given our own recent experiences of “EV range anxiety” we here at V2G UK cannot wait! The $64 gazillion question then is when will we ultimately be “exposed to StoreDot’s 5-minute charging solution”, or something similar from another company?