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Businesses can turn to BESS to beat grid limitations on EV charging

Battery energy storage systems (BESS) could hold the key to unlocking faster fleet electrification.

21/04/2023

As fleet operators move from early stage deployment of EVs to mass adoption, many are finding their plans constrained by electricity supply issues. All too often, depots are simply not equipped with a grid connection that can support large numbers of EV chargers. Typically, the solution is an expensive upgrade from the distribution network operator (DNO), but BESS offers a lower-cost alternative.

“Battery energy storage systems come at a lower cost than some DNO upgrades and can be installed in a fraction of the time,” said Matthew Lumsden, CEO of Connected Energy. “We’re seeing a spike in interest from local authorities and private sector fleet operators who are realising that many of their depots do not have a grid connection that can meet their electrification goals.”

Connected Energy’s E-STOR takes batteries from Renault electric vans and gives them a second life in BESS applications. If a depot’s grid connection isn’t high enough to accommodate banks of EV chargers, E-STOR can bridge this gap. It works by drawing energy from the grid or on-site renewables during periods of low demand, and then providing that power to the charge points as it is needed.

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Connected Energy is working with EV charging providers across the UK to assess where BESS could help make projects more commercially viable.

“There have been projects for both the private and the public sector, that have not progressed because of the cost of the energy works,” said Simon Kendrew, Marketing and Commercial Director – EV Solutions at Equans, which owns GeniePoint. “We’ve found many businesses have a strong motivation to transition to electric, to meet organisational objectives and support their sustainability credentials. However, the cost of the energy upgrades and energy works haven’t been fully understood. Once you get into a requirement for a substation the costs can really escalate, and there have been projects where that is the requirement.”

“The market started off with businesses installing small numbers of charge points, starting slowly as they tested the feasibility of electric vehicles. That meant that their current electrical supply could cope with just a few vehicles charging. The phase we’re now entering, for cars and commercial vehicles, is many more vehicles charging at once. And vehicles are critical for fleets, they need to be able to get those vehicles charged and back out onto the road. Within that context, energy is often a significant cost, it could be 50% of a project’s cost or even more.”

Connected Energy is working with fleet operators, including most recently Nottingham City Council, to provide E-STOR systems that enable large scale EV charging. It has also produced a white paper for fleet operators interested in finding out more about how battery energy storage can support EV charging demands.

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