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How to power electric commercial vehicles with battery energy storage

Electric trucks and buses require big batteries, as well as lots of energy to fill them, putting more pressure on local grid infrastructure. Can we use battery energy storage systems to help?

14/03/2023

All-electric buses will quickly become an increasingly common sight in our cities, while electric heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) are also now in full production.

However, the battery packs on both types of vehicles are typically several times the size of a saloon car – and the bigger the reservoir, the more energy is required to fill it.

Electric Buses

In the UK, the Government is aiming to accelerate electric bus adoption via its Zero Emission Bus Regional Area (ZEBRA) fund, which opened for applications in 2022. Examples of successful bids include bus operator First Bus which received a £38 million grant towards an £81m order for 193 all-electric vehicles from Wrightbus.

The number of buses available is also growing. Zemo Partnership – a leading non-profit focused on transitioning transport to zero emissions, lists 13 manufacturers of all-electric buses, including established OEMs like Alexander Dennis and Volvo.

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Electric HGVs

Volvo is also leading the charge to electrify trucks, both in Europe and North America. In the UK a wave of all-electric trucks has hit the market in recent months, from the likes of Volvo Trucks, Scania and Renault Trucks, plus challenger brands like Volta.

In November 2022, PwC released forecasts predicting that e-trucks will substantially replace conventional trucks in large parts of the world within the next 15 years with battery or fuel cells powering 70% of all trucks in Europe, North America and Greater China by 2035.

Charging challenge

PwC also notes that this surge in the adoption of electric trucks requires significant investment in charging infrastructure now.

For trucks, this means high-performance highway charging hubs as well as depot charging infrastructure that could be high power for fast turnaround, or lower power for overnight charging if the vehicles return to base. PwC states that the forecast levels of electric trucks in 2025 require action to build up a pilot charging network by 2023 and up to 120 megawatt charging systems stations by 2025 to enable an area-coverage network.

Bus operators are already installing energy-intensive rapid charging hubs at their depots to provide the power needed to fill the buses’ big batteries. First Bus has built one of Britain’s largest rapid charging hubs at its depot in Glasgow, Scotland, featuring 160 rapid chargers specifically designed for commercial vehicle charging.

However, such infrastructure comes at an enormous cost. First Bus was fortunate to receive a multi-million-pound grant to help with the expenditure, which included a substantial upgrade to its local grid. This type of district network operator (DNO) upgrade can cost millions of pounds – without grant funding, it can make bus and truck charging hubs commercially unviable.

Many bus depots are legacy buildings without huge headroom when it comes to the grid connection, while for trucks motorway services are also notorious for lack of energy capacity. The conundrum facing the EV charging industry, therefore, is, how do we install the charging infrastructure required to support electric trucks and buses without incurring the high costs of major DNO upgrades?

The cost-effective option

Another way to establish rapid charging hubs and make them commercially viable is by using battery energy storage systems (BESS). These systems use large numbers of batteries to store energy from the grid or from renewable sources. This energy is then available to be discharged as required to support rapid charging hubs.

The BESS can act as a buffer, ensuring that high amounts of energy are available on demand, without the need for a DNO upgrade. An example of this is Connected Energy’s E-STOR system used at a charging hub in Dundee. If demand from vehicles plugged into the hub gets close to exceeding the power available from the grid, E-STOR bridges the gap.

Connected Energy has also worked with Allego to install battery energy storage systems in Belgium and Germany to make rapid charging viable without grid upgrades. Whenever a driver plugs into the network, the Connected Energy system provides the additional power needed.

Solutions for your site

Both bus depots and motorway services or dedicated charging hubs are typically sites with spare land – ideal for accommodating a large BESS.

If you have room to locate a battery energy storage system, you should talk to us about a feasibility study to establish potential cost savings. To find out more about how our second-life EV battery storage systems can support your EV charging infrastructure growth, download our latest guide.

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