UK to host world's first battery and rapid EV charging network

The world's first 2GW network of grid-scale batteries and rapid electric vehicle (EV) charging stations is set to be installed in the UK at a cost of £1.6bn, as the result of a partnership announced today by the National Grid and Pivot Power.

Pivot Power aims to have operational batteries at 10 of the 45 sites, which are all near towns and major roads, within the next 18 months

Pivot Power aims to have operational batteries at 10 of the 45 sites, which are all near towns and major roads, within the next 18 months

The £1.6bn project will see 45 new battery sites developed nationwide at electricity sub-stations, forming the world’s biggest network of grid-scale 50MW batteries. The batteries will collectively store enough electricity to supply 235,000 average homes for a day once a full roll-out is complete.

The batteries will power the largest network of rapid EV charging stations in the world, with each station set to have a 20MW connection with the capability to support up to 100 rapid 150KW chargers. The battery sites will also each provide a hub capable of supporting electric bus depots and bases for large transport fleets, with the capability to support 350KW EV chargers in the future.

“We expect the use of electric vehicles to grow rapidly, so this innovative solution will help accelerate adoption by providing a network of rapid charging stations across the country enabling cars to charge quickly, efficiently and as cost-effectively as possible,” the National Grid’s project director for EVs, Graeme Cooper, said. “It will also give the system operator more choice and flexibility for managing the demands in the day to day running of the network, and also help mass EV charging”.

Pivot Power aims to have operational batteries at 10 of the 45 sites, which are all near towns and major roads, within the next 18 months – but information on exactly when a full roll-out will be completed and the exact locations of the sites has not yet been revealed.

A ‘future-proof’ approach

Pivot Power’s strategy relies on connecting its batteries and rapid charging stations directly to the National Grid’s extra-high-voltage transmission system, giving it an advantage over existing batteries and charging stations linked to the lower voltage regional distribution system.

The firm’s chief executive, Matt Allen, said this model would help “future-proof” the UK’s energy system and “accelerate the electric vehicle revolution” as the nation braces for the government’s phasing out of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040, coupled with the threat of a potential energy crisis.

The announcement also comes amid the ongoing global shift towards battery storage. Indeed, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) has predicted that the global energy storage market will double six times by 2030 as end-user businesses increasingly turn to battery technologies to boost energy resilience.

EV revolution

BNEF has found that EVs will account for more than half of new car sales by 2040, with its most recent analysis  finding that “the EV revolution is going to hit the car market even harder and faster” than it anticipated in 2016.

EV sales reached record heights in 2016, with 700,000 sold worldwide – up 716% on 2010 figures – so it’s hardly surprising that  top car makers including VWBMWFord and Jaguar Land Rover are all moving to ramp up investment into EV production and battery research and innovation.

However, the BNEF research noted that the pace of the EV revolution could be hindered by far slower investment growth in infrastructure. Similarly, the Department for Transport has identified a lack of charging infrastructure as one of the three biggest barriers to EV adoption in the UK, along with distance travelled per charge and vehicle cost. The newly-announced network aims to help UK motorists overcome these deterrents.

Sarah George 


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