Consumer Attitudes to Smart Meters

According to a press release from Smart Energy GB:

Consumers who have upgraded to a smart meter as part of Britain’s national rollout are continuing to demonstrate high satisfaction with their new technology, and greater control over their energy bills.

Smart Energy GB, the national campaign for Britain’s smart meter rollout, today publishes the third Smart energy outlook, the largest independent barometer of national public opinion on energy and smart meters. The research surveys more than 10,000 people around the country.

The bullet point from the “Smart Energy Outlook” report are:

  • More than half (52 per cent) of people with smart meters say their new meter is helping them save money
  • Eight in ten (80 per cent) people with smart meters have taken at least one step to reduce how much energy they use
  • Eight in ten (79 per cent) people with smart meters would recommend them to others
  • 85 per cent of those with smart meters say they have a better understanding of what they are spending on energy
  • People with smart meters are more confident in the accuracy of their bills (81 per cent) when compared to those with traditional meters (64 per cent)
  • Three quarters of people with smart meters (75 per cent) say that they understand their energy bills, while just 61 per cent of people using traditional meters said the same
  • Nearly three quarters (72 per cent) of people with smart meters say that they have the information they need to choose the right energy tariff, far higher than those with traditional meters (57 per cent)

Just in case you are now wondering “How do smart meters work?” here’s a video explanation from Smart Energy GB:

I wonder how many of the people surveyed by Populus would be interested in having an electric vehicle capable of powering their home, together with a smart meter and a “Smart Grid” that allowed them to optimise the charging and discharging of their EV’s batteries to their own financial advantage?

In partial answer to that supplementary question, here is our report on consumer attitudes to “Smart Charging” of electric vehicles

Riversimple Launch the Rasa Hydrogen FCEV

We’ve mentioned the Riversimple open source hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle before, and we could not help but notice the countdown to the launch of their new “Rasa” model on their Twitter feed:

Today there’s an in depth article in the Financial Times about the Rasa and the reasoning behind it. Here’s the edited highlights:

Riversimple Movement is taking its hydrogen fuel-cell project — now 15 years in the making — to the next stage with the unveiling of its first production-ready, road-legal prototype and the start of a public trial.

In the autumn, about 20 people will have the chance to drive away a carbon-fibre Rasa, which may look slightly kooky with its rear-wheel spats and butterfly doors but packs four electric motors and can travel for 300 miles on a single fill-up.

“We’re not targeting the ecological market. We want it to look good,” says Hugo Spowers, who founded the company in 2001.

The Rasa was named for the blank-slate approach the company says it is taking to carmaking. Parts are chosen not on the basis of how cheap, light or powerful they are but how they will affect the business model.

“One investor told me this was the first time he’d seen a car built for a business model rather than the other way round,” says Mr Spowers.

Please read the FT article in full, but also take a look at what Riversimple themselves have to say. According to “Technology behind the car” section of their web site:

Every aspect of the hydrogen Mark ll Alpha has been created and interrogated for simplicity, efficiency, lightness, strength, affordability, safety and sustainability.

This first car is a two seater ‘network electric’ car, powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. The chassis is a carbon fibre monocoque made from very lightweight but extremely stiff carbon fibre composites. The monocoque chassis weighs less than 40kg.

Our car is very light – we have a target weight of 520 kg. It embodies various key features:

  • Four electric motors, one in each wheel
  • Motors as brakes – recovering over 50% of kinetic energy when braking
  • Super-capacitors to store this energy and provide most of the power for acceleration
  • A low powered hydrogen fuel cell ( 8.5 kW)
  • A body made of lightweight composites

It’s the synthesis of all these technologies that delivers the groundbreaking efficiency and range, many times better than inserting fuel cells into conventional, heavy, vehicles. The production prototype should do c.250 mpg (equivalent), with a range of 300 miles. Emissions are zero at tailpipe and c.40gCO2/km Well-to-Wheel – even if the hydrogen comes from natural gas.

We’ll keep you posted as the Rasa launch countdown continues. According to Twitter:

Here’s a teaser video to whet the appetite for the big reveal on 17 Feb – 5days to go!

[Edit – February 17th 2016]

The Riversimple Rasa has been unveiled today:

According to the Riversimple blog:

The new car reflects a simple idea that was first mooted in the 4th century BC by the great philosopher and scientist, Aristotle. It is the idea that something new begins, not with predetermined structure and characteristics, but with a blank slate – tabula rasa – moment of potential.

We set out with a blank slate, to design a car for the world in which we now live, shaped by the best technology available to us and answerable to our most pressing concerns. We set out to build a local car that will take people on their local journeys, in the way that they wish to travel, at a cost that is affordable – and without leaving a heavy footprint of air pollution and environmental degradation. To do this we selected a still evolving, but incredibly promising and safe technology. This is hydrogen fuel cell technology.

Here’s another video, this time revealing the Rasa in all its low drag glory:

I did enquire on Twitter where the nearest suitable filling station for a Rasa might ultimately be. I haven’t received an answer yet, but if it isn’t “Exeter” then I rather hope it will be “Plymouth”. According to the SWARM Project web site:

This project will establish a demonstration fleet of small passenger vehicles that builds on and expands existing hydrogen refuelling infrastructure. Three European regions will be participating in this effort: the UK (the Midlands and Plymouth), the Brussels area and Wallonia, and the Weser-Ems region in NorthWest Germany. Each of these regions will deploy a new hydrogen refuelling site to close the gaps in a continuous ‘hydrogen highways’ that leads from Scotland via the Midlands to London, connecting to Brussels and on to Cologne and Hamburg/Scandinavia/Berlin via Bremen.

The vehicles employed are low-cost, high fuel-efficiency, hybridised, light-weight passenger cars specifically designed for city and regional transport. These vehicles provide a complementary pathway to commercialisation to the large Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) of hydrogen fuel cell options, by allowing near-term rollout on a commercial basis to a wide range of users – in parallel with the planned rollouts for large OEM vehicles from 2015. Their deployment regions will gain the infrastructure, public exposure and technological understanding to act as seed locations for future large scale OEM vehicle rollout.

You will note that Riversimple are a member of the SWARM project consortium.

Robin Berg’s TEDx talk on “A new local energy and transport system”

I had the pleasure of meeting Robin Berg in Utrecht last summer at the launch of the LomboXnet solar PV powered bi-directional vehicle to grid system. Here is a video of Robin’s recent presentation at TEDx Utrecht:

Robin says many interesting and enlightening things, but for the moment please consider this one:

Tomorrow your car will run electric. The day after it will power your house. It will be 100% renewable, it will be 100% clean, and it will be the end of coal, oil and gas.

Storm Imogen Follows Floods in South-West England

The United Kingdom’s Met Office is just down the road from here in Exeter, and they have just announced that the newly named “Storm Imogen” is heading our way:

Imogen follows in the footsteps of her brother Henry further north and the unnamed storm that has just deposited 57.8 mm of rain on Okehampton in 24 hours:

whilst Exeter Airport endured gusts of wind up to 50 mph and a mere 21.0 mm of rainfall:

We have previously speculated about the effects of such storms on Western Power Distribution’s network in the South-West Peninsula, so here is how things look qualitatively at the moment, following today’s flooding:

and here’s the associated quantities

Here’s how Haldon Hill has been preconditioned for Imogen’s imminent arrival:

and here is the Met Office’s forecast [updated Sunday AM] for our back yard on Monday:

Do you suppose there will be another power cut here tomorrow?

V2G and Energy Storage are in the News. In the UK!

Spring is in the air here in the United Kingdom. Several of the people I debate the future of distributed energy storage with on a regular basis have been in the news this week!

First up was Mark Thompson of Innovate UK. According to the headline in an article in Utility Week:

EVs are stable energy storage asset, says Innovate UK

The article goes on to explain that:

Innovate UK has brushed aside ongoing fears around using electric and plug-in vehicles as an energy storage facility, insisting they present a “car park of energy storage” for UK network companies after 2025.

Innovate UK’s lead technologist for energy systems Mark Thompson said at a recent storage event that fears that using EV batteries for grid support will rapidly degrade the batteries are unfounded. Innovation projects already undertaken into EV charging reveal the batteries will be accessible to the grid 95 per cent of the time.

Thompson said “a lot of anxiety” around using EVs as energy storage centres on battery recycling, but tests show that using an EV battery to provide 7kW of grid support is equivalent to driving at just 20mph.

Mark went on to point out:

That is a modest amount of power but aggregated would be very useful for a distribution network operator. The stress level on that battery of sitting there continually pushing out 7kW compared to a 35 minute journey is a no-brainer, it’s an extremely calm and un-stressful environment for that vehicle. Car manufacturer Nissan has been very vocal on the potential benefits of using EVs for grid support because there really isn’t an issue compared to the complexities and stresses that the battery goes through for a pretty normal driving scenario.

If we can be clever and come up with the right business models to engage people in moving their charging and allow network operators to have some control, if we can be savvy about that then network investment costs are virtually zero until you are well into the 2020s

Here’s one of Nissan’s infographics showing how they see the technology working:

UK Plc “being savvy” and providing support for the “right business models” is another matter entirely however! Utility Week continued:

Projects such as My Electric Avenue have revealed that vehicles are sat stationary at either the home or workplace, both potential charging locations, 95 percent of the time making EVs a “stable storage asset”. Based on “very modest projections” there could be as many as 300,000 EV or hybrid vehicles on UK roads by 2025, presenting around 4GW of potential storage to the UK’s electricity system with very little network reinforcement required.

Having discussed the Utility Week article with Mark Thompson it seems they have misinterpreted a couple of points:

I didn’t wish to imply that cars would be 95% available, just that they are “parked for 95% of the time” but that data DNO projects such as My Electric Avenue and ETI analysis indicate that a “very healthy proportion” of plugins will be accessible over the 24 hour cycle for grid support given charging and use patterns. The 95% figure as currently illustrated is not of course realistic, but perhaps eventually grid “connected availability” may be in the region of 30-60% depending on the time of day, which in time will amount to a significant amount of grid connected resource.

Also, the 4GW figure should be 4GWh.

Here’s the original slide from Mark’s presentation, with the correct units clearly visible on the Y axis and in big letters towards the end of the headline:

Today the mainstream media picked up the story in the form of an article by Damian Carrington in The Guardian entitled “From liquid air to supercapacitors, energy storage is finally poised for a breakthrough”. Damian opens with a quote from Jill Cainey, director of the UK’s Electricity Storage Network.

It doesn’t always rain when you need water, so we have reservoirs – but we don’t have the same system for electricity.

A battery project can take 12-18 months from saying we will do it, to completion. California is aggressively pursuing a low-carbon agenda and they don’t want diesel [generator back-up] on the system. Amber Rudd is talking a lot about energy storage, but we need a clear regulatory steer. The planes are circling, but there is no runway to land on.

Next Mark Thompson is quoted once again, apparently from the Utility Week article rather than from his actual presentation:

Using electric car batteries as a smart storage network while still in the cars is a promising option in the future, according to Mark Thompson at Innovate UK, a government agency. He says there could be 4GW capacity – a nuclear power station is about 1GW – by 2025 across the 300,000 electric cars projected to be on UK roads by then. He says cars are stationary for 95% of the time and using them could save billions of pounds, removing the need for new power stations and power lines.

However the article continues:

While interest in energy storage projects in the UK is surging – a recent call from National Grid for 200MW of short-term storage was oversubscribed six times – it is starting from a low base: just 24MW has been installed compared to the 5,000MW the government’s official advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, envisages in a low-carbon nation in 2030.

In November, energy secretary Amber Rudd said: “Locally generated energy supported by storage, interconnection and demand response, offers the possibility of a radically different model… We are looking at removing regulations that are holding back smart solutions, such as demand side response and storage.”

Removing the regulations that are holding back smart solutions is one of the reasons Mark and Jill were already on my list of people to call this week. That’s because DECC’s current consultation about how to “Ensure Regulation in the Energy Sector Encourages Innovation” closes on February 11th!

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.