With intelligent energy platform Kaluza recently pledging carbon negativity by 2030, the firm reflected on the progress made during EV hook up Project Sciurus, where the firm’s vehicle-to-grid (V2G) plans go next, and how the technology can be a key enabler of energy flexibility on the road to net zero.

Alongside a forecast upshift in the EV rollout comes the unavoidable need for the standard and coverage of auxiliary infrastructure to keep up more broadly. The Energy Networks Association, for example, recently highlighted that the number of public charging points has increased by 51% to cater for a 205% increase in the number of EVs on the road since 2019.

What’s more, an August 2021 study of 9,000 consumers, 750 fleet managers, and 30 automotive industry professionals in eight countries by Castrol predicted that to achieve mass adoption the average EV will need to offer 31-minute charging, 291 miles of range and carry a price-tag of around £30,000 – a tipping point the sector is navigating towards apace.

The government has, however, insisted that the grid will be able to cope with increased demand for EV chargers following Boris Johnson’s announcement that they will be mandated in new and converted buildings during his keynote speech at the CBI’s annual conference on 22 November.

Similarly, Kaluza’s EV smart charging specialist Tom Pakenham believes that Project Sciurus – billed as the world’s largest domestic V2G rollout with more than 300 chargers installed with the aim of validating the technical and commercial potential for a domestic charging solution capable of providing flexibility services to networks – has seen the proliferation and attitudes towards V2G change gear.

The £5 million project received £3 million funding from Innovate UK, and was carried out by a fleet of stakeholders comprising Nissan, non-profit research and consultancy Cenex, EV charger company Indra, Ovo Energy and Kaluza over two-years.

Pakenham describes “customer happiness” with the V2G technology – which enables plug-in vehicles to act as a form of distributed energy storage by providing demand-response services to the power grid – as one of the venture’s most encouraging signs.

“When we set out on this journey in 2017 the cheapest V2G charger was more than £15,000 and was the size of a large fridge freezer,” he explains. “There was no sophisticated software to control it and domestic customers had no access. Project Sciurus changed all of those things.

“The growth of the EV fleet has increased general understanding of the idea that EVs are the perfect complement to renewables as a massive aggregated battery on wheels; and has increased awareness of the technical challenges that the grid faces as EV numbers increase. In turn, this has caused a greater willingness of EV owners and EV businesses to explore innovative solutions, of which V2G is one.”

The tipping point for mass EV adoption? (source: Castrol)

  • 31-minute charging
  • 291 miles of range
  • £30,000 price-tag

The update comes as Kaluza and Flexitricity – the first UK aggregator to become a Virtual Lead Party in the Balancing Mechanism – teamed up to offer a new combined grid flexibility service in the Balancing Mechanism in September.

As reported by Utility Week, Ovo-owned energy platform Kaluza and Flexitricity pledged to offer demand response by optimising EV and domestic battery storage, including V2G for the first time.

Changing consumer habits

A centrepiece of Project Sciurus was Kaluza’s intelligent grid technology, Kaluza Flex, which has been earmarked to play a key role in lowering EV ownership costs and enabling energy companies to develop market-leading services that lower energy bills and carbon for their customers.

The platform uses AI and machine learning to optimise V2G devices by analysing real-time market signals – such as grid supply, weather and pricing data – and charging cars when energy costs and carbon levels are low as well as exporting back to the grid when local demand increases.

Project Sciurus’ headlines included an average customer reward of £420 per year from selling surplus energy back to the grid – with one earning almost £800 – 93% of trial participants claiming they were satisfied with their chargers, a plug-in frequency of 75%, and more than three million free miles for customers earned by exporting energy back to the grid at peak times.

What’s more, in excess of more than 900MWh of energy was exported to the grid over two years by consumers, with 50% of the fleet helping to support the grid when prompted during a supply squeeze in January 2021.

Additionally, while export volumes from V2Gs remained similar to pre-lockdown levels, Kaluza saw increases in V2G portfolio availability during the daytime as more people worked from home – meaning some days yielded increases of up to 30% in available flexible capacity from the V2G portfolio when compared to the portfolio availability patterns seen pre-lockdown.

These findings come despite September 2020 research by YouGov revealing that charging was a significant barrier to the EV rollout, with more than three-fifths (62%) of Europeans concerned about limited availability of charging points, three-fifths (58%) viewing battery life issues as a barrier and a third (32%) also referencing the cost of charging at home.

Key numbers: Project Sciurus

  • £420
    The average customer reward per year from selling surplus energy back to the grid – with one earning almost £800
  • 93%
    The percentage of trial participants claiming they were satisfied with their chargers
  • More than three million
    More than three million free miles were earned by exporting energy back to the grid at peak times
  • More than 900MWh
    Amount of energy exported to the grid over two years by consumers

V2G’s ‘potentially huge’ role in flexibility

Plotting the V2G journey beyond Project Sciurus, Pakenham tells Utility Week Innovate that Kaluza now has integrations between an expanding range of hardware and it’s platform in the pipeline and intends to share findings on the role V2G can play in increasing the penetration of renewables and maximising the utilisation of wind and solar power where and when it’s available more broadly.

He adds that collaboration with automakers and efforts to further encourage them to make vehicles V2G capable in order to grow the market size and make it easier for customers to participate in the grid are firmly on the company’s roadmap.

“Things are changing very quickly with Ford, Honda, Kia and Hyundai all offering vehicles that have vehicle-to-everything technology built in,” he says. “Meanwhile Volkswagen has announced an intention to embrace bidirectional charging and BMW is looking closely at it. Even Tesla is making noises about its earlier resistance to V2G.”

Pakenham also feels that, based on Project Sciurus’ findings, V2G could play a “potentially huge” role in energy flexibility and make a sizeable dent in the predicted additional annual electricity demand of over 80TWh per year by 2050 flagged in Commercial Viability of V2G: Project Sciurus White Paper.

Insights from the firm’s portfolio of devices reveal that each V2G-enabled car offered 2.47 MWh of flexible charging per year and represents approximately 3kW of flexible capacity available between 5pm and 7am every day.

According to Kaluza research, if half of the 11 million EVs forecast to be on the road by 2030 were V2G enabled, this would open up 22 TWh – the equivalent energy generated in a year from 3,666 average wind turbines – of flexible EV discharging capacity per year and could provide roughly 16GW of daily flexible capacity to help and balance the grid.

“According to an Imperial College study, the storage and flexibility capacity of V2G could save the UK economy £3.5 billion per year,” Pakenham continues.

“Four-point-seven million V2G enabled EVs – out of total UK car parc of 30 million cars – could provide 25GW of power, more than seven times that provided by Hinkley Point C. The same number of EVs would provide 280 GWh of storage capacity, more than a third of the energy consumed in the UK each day.”

Innovating in ‘carbon-busting’ products

On 18 November, software company Kaluza announced the launch of ‘Mission Transition’ – a sustainability pledge that commits the software-as-a-service platform to carbon negativity by 2030 and to further drive decarbonisation across the energy sector more broadly.

Key areas of focus include sustainable software innovation in order to reduce its platform’s cloud usage and curb emissions.

Kaluza has pledged to keep energy customers in tow by enabling energy companies to tailor propositions that reduce the cost of owning  EVs heat pumps and other smart devices as part of its commitments – to which the findings of Project Sciurus and augmentation of Kaluza Flex will be key.

By June 2022, Kaluza has pledged to submit absolute reduction targets across scope one, two and three emissions to the Science-Based Target Initiative (SBTI) and publish the second phase of Mission Transition, including its roadmap to carbon negativity.

“The climate crisis requires nothing short of a revolution in how we produce, manage, and use energy,” Scott Neuman, CEO at Kaluza said. “The time is now for energy companies to seize the opportunities afforded by the energy transition and to lead by innovating the carbon-busting products and services that shape our future.”

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