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One in 10 new cars sold in 2020 was a plug-in vehicle, and despite overall car sales declining, the proportion of electric vehicles sold continues to rise.

At UK Power Networks we forecast that by 2030 there will be 4.5 million EVs on the road where we deliver power across London, the South East and East of England. Commercial fleets are predicted to purchase 60% of all new electric vehicles, putting fleets at the heart of the transition to Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050.

It’s our job to distribute electricity into people’s homes and businesses, safely, reliably and efficiently. More than 90% of all EV charging currently happens at home, delivered through our network, meaning we have a vital role to play in facilitating the transition to electric vehicles.

With colleagues, I have been working on Optimise Prime, the world’s largest commercial EV trial, to build a tool that will help turn fleet managers into energy managers. Understanding exactly how much energy your fleet will require to charge will enable us to model charging demand over the day and night to achieve the lowest cost. From up-front costs to charging infrastructure, our goal is to identify and find solutions to the barriers stopping fleets switching to EVs.

We’re also helping businesses develop new income streams to cut the cost of running electric fleets, supporting their business model and enabling them to transition to EVs earlier. For example, many people considering investing in an EV fleet may not have yet realised you can use the set of batteries in the cars to earn revenue back from the grid. If you have a fleet of 100 EVs charging in a depot, that’s 100 batteries and about 300kW of mobile energy that could be given back to the network, and you could get paid to do it. We could even help you charge more, for less money, by charging your EVs outside of peak hours. Once testing and commissioning activities for these solutions are completed, the formal trials will get under way this summer. All of this contributes to lower costs to customers, because there are fewer upfront costs involved in reinforcing our network to connect EV chargers and other new technology to it.

Just one rapid 50kW charger can use the same amount of electricity capacity as a whole block of flats, so it’s critical the energy and transport sectors work together to meet the challenges ahead. Collaboration is key to ensure enough network capacity is released over the next 30 years to enable consumers to switch to EVs with assurance that they can charge quickly, easily and cheaply whenever and wherever they are.

Across our partners, we will monitor the range of business needs involved with charging EVs, whether that means being able to charge vehicles at home, in a depot overnight or while out and about. Working with Hitachi, UK Power Networks has partnered with SSEN (Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks), Centrica, Royal Mail and Uber, bringing leaders in technology and infrastructure together with commercial customers to get up to 3000 EVs on the road. We’ll find and test solutions that will make it more operationally practical and cost-efficient for more fleets to make the switch to EVs with confidence. Optimise Prime will produce the world’s largest EV dataset, providing us with unparalleled insights into EV fleet behaviour.

Optimise Prime is an example of how working together to find new solutions, is fundamental to tackling the challenges of a Net Zero future.

Indeed, the solutions we are trialling today will form part of tomorrow’s future. Many of the learnings from the project will be rolled out across the country, helping us all build a better more sustainable world to live in.

If you would like to find out more about Optimise Prime and what it could mean for your business in the future visit:

Ian Cameron, head of customer services and innovation, UK Power Networks