UK to invest in bi-directional EV charging as more service training is needed

10 July 2017

10 July 2017

The UK Government has announced plans to invest in support for support bi-directional charging systems for electric vehicles (EVs) to help them give something back to the national grid.

A total of £20 million (€22.6 million) will help to support vehicle-to-grid projects as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy and create a smarter energy system while also helping to boost the number of EVs on UK roads. The projects will investigate technology that allows plug-in vehicles to both draw from the power grid when charging but also return energy to people’s homes, or put it straight back into the grid.

The investment also aims to help boost the number of charge points in the UK. Currently, there are around 100,000 electric cars on roads in the country, with only 11,000 charging locations. Unless the infrastructure changes, there may be too much demand placed on the UK grid. The government believes that as the number of these grow, they become a valuable resource for a smart electricity grid, bringing a benefit for drivers while creating a more flexible and efficient energy system.

Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry, Claire Perry comments: ′The government is a world leader in tackling climate change and we are committed to investing in clean energy innovation to support the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy.

′Vehicle to grid technology provides another opportunity for the UK to showcase to the world our leading expertise in research and development which is at the heart of our ambitious Industrial Strategy. This competition could unlock significant economic benefits for the UK – helping to create jobs in this burgeoning sector while helping to reduce our emissions.’

The new funding, which comes from the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV), underlines the UK’s commitment to innovative technologies in the automotive market, a point highlighted by the inclusion of a EV and autonomous vehicle bill in the Queens Speech at the opening of the UK parliament. Over £600 million (€679 million) is already being invested to accelerate the transition to ultra-low emission vehicles.

Transport Minister Jesse Norman adds: ′Electric vehicles are already helping thousands of motorists cut their fuel costs, and now there is an extra financial incentive for motorists to go green. The number of ultra-low emission vehicles on our roads is at record levels, with the latest figures showing that there are over 100,000 plug-in cars and vans registered. The government’s ambition is that nearly all cars and vans on our roads are zero emission by 2050.’

The investment will be awarded to three types of innovative vehicle to grid projects: feasibility studies – investigating the ways vehicle to grid technology can be used in the future; industrial research or experimental development – for example, to develop vehicle-to-grid charging equipment; and demonstrator trials in the real-world environment – projects that trial vehicle to grid technology in different locations across the country.

While a boost to the UK charging infrastructure may help increase the number of EVs on roads, the issue of where they will be serviced and repaired continues to pose a conundrum. The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) has warned that the motor retail sector is failing to train enough technicians in electric technology in order to keep pace with sales.

According to the industry, only 1% of all technicians in the UK have been trained to work on EVs, with almost all of them working for dealerships and not independent garages. The IMI said that the UK will fail to keep up with the global competition for the adoption of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) if the charging infrastructure isn’t improved and more technicians are not given the training required to service these high powered vehicles.

Steve Nash, chief executive at the IMI, comments: ′Much more needs to be done if the UK is to realise the £51 billion (€57.6 billion) contribution from new vehicle technologies that the government is pursuing by 2030. That is contingent upon the UK being a leading player, but we must start with the basics by ensuring that we have the infrastructure and skills base to support motorists making an easy transition from petrol and diesel to electric and hybrid.

′A greater and more rapid investment in the charging infrastructure and financial support to help those working in the service & repair sector, most particularly the independent operators, to gain the skills to work on the new technologies,’ he continued.

The IMI is continuing a campaign for the introduction of a technician licensing scheme, especially for those working on high-voltage vehicles, and has asked the UK Government to contribute £30 million (€34 million) to support the uptake in training required to ensure the UK EV parc can be serviced safely.

The news comes as a new study reveals that the UK is not one of the seven biggest powerhouses in EV technology. That accolade goes to France, with Germany and Japan also vying for top spot. The e-mobility index by shows the French industry having a score of 2.6 out of 5 on technology, with the second place countries on 2.5. In industry, China leads the way with a 5 out of 5 score, tying in top spot with the US. France and China also lead the market section with a score of five out of five.

Other countries highlighted as in the top seven include Korea and Italy. While the UK does not understandably feature in technology, with few British vehicle manufacturers, the lack of technology and market in Germany highlights how far the country has fallen behind with EV technology, and the need to embrace it, something the country has plans to develop.

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