General Posted: 6 December, 2021. Written by Mike Schooling, CTO, Indra Renewable Technologies
The ongoing surge in energy prices has brought into sharp relief for many people just how reliant we are on easy access to energy.
From home essentials such as cooking and heating, to personal tech and the growing demand for electric vehicles (EVs), it’s unlikely that our need for energy is going to slow down any time soon. And if that seems to fly in the face of the environmental messaging of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ that has been drilled into our psyche for the last decade or so, then where does that leave us?
The reality is that the amount of energy we consume is not as important as how we harness and control the flow of it and when we use it. Like all things in life, there is a balance that needs to be struck, and that balance resides at the heart of our energy infrastructure and the National Grid. The key to this is in managing the flow between energy demand and availability in a smart way.
The ultimate goal is essentially to be able to harness the best-quality, renewable energy when it is available, and avoid the need to meet spikes in energy demand by burning high carbon sources such as coal.
A key focus for us at Indra is on developing technology that has the intelligence to charge your car so it’s ready when you need it, but also schedule the charging for off-peak periods. This enables the car owner to access cheaper, off-peak tariffs for charging their car, whilst also helping the Grid maximise use of renewable energy when it’s available. By assisting the Grid in time shifting the load in this way, we are also helping to reduce energy peaks that require energy created in a less sustainable way, which we see as a win-win.
Traditional V1H Smart Chargers, such as our Smart PRO, allow the EV driver to schedule charging which is in line with the cheapest cost or the lowest carbon impact. Smart V1G chargers such as our Smart Pioneer, will also allow the EV driver to benefit from payments made by the National Grid, DNOs and energy companies. These payments are made in exchange for the opportunity to turn pause or use the charger for brief periods where power in a particular area is scarce or oversupplied. These small intermittent events make little difference to the EV driver meeting their ready by time, but make a huge difference to the Grid and network operators in their effort to continually balance supply and demand. This is why many of our Pioneer owners tell us it’s like “money for nothing”.
The real opportunity is being able to match the accessibility of renewable energy, such as wind, solar and hydro, which is hard to predict, with our energy demands, which generally follow a more predictable pattern. For example, solar energy is a little erratic in the UK, and not a reliable source for cooking an evening meal or defrosting the car on a winter morning. Wind power is similarly unpredictable and, when there is too much wind, the Grid has to offload the energy, which is why you might notice that some wind turbines are turned off in high winds. That is a lot of clean energy that’s lost and, sometimes, later replaced by burning high carbon fuels at other times. Clearly, we should move demand to these periods. At Indra we have developed the first domestic Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) charger – an intelligent charging unit that channels energy in both directions between the Grid and vehicle. The exciting thing about this technology is that EV drivers can not only import energy into their cars when it is cheapest to do so and use the car when they want, but they can also export any surplus energy back to the Grid —and be paid for it. The car battery essentially becomes your own personal energy storage facility.
The other day, for example, it was very windy late at night, when energy demand on the Grid was light. My energy tariff actually dropped to a negative price, meaning I was effectively being paid by the energy provider to charge my car. Later the following day, energy demand rose dramatically, and I was able to export energy back to the Grid at £2 kWh – very handy when energy prices are reaching high peaks themselves!
In addition to V2G, we are also trialling the same bidirectional technology between the car and home (Vehicle-to-Home or V2H). This is essentially the same as V2G, but instead of exporting surplus energy to the Grid, you can use it to power your house, meaning you can use your car to cook your breakfast, run your washing machine, and even heat your shower.
And if that is not exciting enough, Indra is developing V2H2G technology, where you can essentially do both – use the energy from your car to power your home and then export any residual surplus to the Grid. This has been a game-changer for our home electricity bills! You can read more about that here.
The possibilities that stem from this kind of technology is the most exciting part for me. It opens the door to a world where workplace charge points can help employees to not only top up their car charge at work if they need to but can even enable the organisation to use its fleet of vehicles to power the buildings and literally keep the lights on. This has the potential to assist the Grid in a much bigger and revolutionary way. Imagine how much joy a cup of coffee would give you in a long business meeting if you knew your car has helped make it!
By intelligently controlling and managing the flow of electricity between the Grid, the home and the vehicle, our journey to net zero will be rapidly accelerated and I’m proud that we are pioneering this technology at Indra. V2X (V2G or V2H) tech is not yet available commercially but we are working with a range of partners to trial this across both public sector and private settings, and we hope to be able to share more on this in the not-too-distant future.
For more information on Indra’s smart EV charger and renewable energy technology, visit www.indra.co.uk.