What is My Electric Avenue?
My Electric Avenue is an 18-month, £9m project which will investigate how demand from electric vehicle charging will impact on the electrical grid by 2030, and how this can be managed using easily deployed technology.
Why is this so important?
Most of the UK’s electrical grid was installed during the 1930s, and capacity is based on the assumption that a household won’t have all of its appliances switched on at once. This means electricity capacity can vary depending on the time, day and season as well as the behaviour of local residents.
Electric vehicles add another complication to this limited capacity, potentially creating a peak time just after work hours where large numbers of cars are plugged in at home, alongside power-hungry appliances such as cookers, potentially resulting in a shortage or blackout.
My Electric Avenue will test an easily installed solution for distribution network operators (DNOs) which will allow power usage to be controlled remotely and could save expensive, disruptive upgrades to the electrical grid as electric vehicle uptake increases.
How does it work?
The electric vehicle market is still small in the UK, which makes it difficult to simulate a future street where large numbers of cars are being charged at the same time. Instead, the the project has created 11 ‘clusters’ of at least 10 drivers, using power from the same sub-station to charge their cars, with Nissan offering discounted leasing on a fleet of LEAFs through FleetDrive Electric.
Nine of the clusters are residential streets, in Marlow, Chineham, Chiswick, Lyndhurst, South Gosforth, Wylan and with two in South Shields – areas covered by DNO partners Scottish and Southern Electricity Power Distribution and Northern Powergrid. These were selected to offer a mix of rural areas, which have long overhead lines, and urban communities which have shorter underground electric connections to the nearest substation.
The remaining two clusters are businesses. Your Homes Limited, a housing association in Newcastle, and Slough Borough Council, will each have employees privately leasing LEAFs through the scheme and charged using workplace charging equipment to investigate daytime usage peaks.
In all cases charging equipment has been installed on-site, connected to a system called Esprit which communicates with the local substation. If the substation detects it is coming close to capacity, it can automatically and individually cut power to the charging points for up to half an hour to reduce load on the grid.
Data is transmitted through the power lines, no other electrical systems are affected, and the project aims to prove that cycling charging in this way won’t cause any inconvenience for drivers.
What happens next?
The fleet of 111 vehicles involved in the first phase of the project, known as the technical trial, is already being rolled out to residential and business clusters and the first street is now live in Marlow. Data collected will be analysed and shared among network operators, government, the energy industry, low-carbon vehicle sector and general public.
A further 139 vehicles will take part in the next phase, the social trial, which will collect data from the LEAF’s CARWINGS on-board telematics system to analyse changing usage of electric vehicles. Unlike the technical trial, this will be open to participants across the country and there is no requirement for additional equipment to be installed at home.