World’s biggest commercial EV project set to launch in London

Several big-name businesses, including Uber and UK Power Networks, have teamed up to launch a three-year project aimed at determining how the UK's business community should be supported as it undergoes the electric vehicle (EV) transition.

Called Optimise Prime and led by data technology solutions provider Hitachi Vantara, the project will see Uber and Centrica collectively roll out 3,000 EVs within the Greater London area by the end of 2021, making it the largest corporate-led scheme of its kind to date.

Working alongside Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks, Hitachi Europe and Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions, the firms will additionally develop innovative solutions to some of the biggest barriers to EV adoption for fleet managers, including high upfront costs.

Partners aim to develop an end-to-end overview of the impact the EV revolution will have on cables, substations and charging infrastructure. Due to be published before 2022, the overview will account for depot, domestic and public charging scenarios.

Hitachi’s role in the project, meanwhile, will be to use its Internet of Things (IoT) platform, called Lumda, to source and interpret data surrounding the power and infrastructure demands of EV fleets and EVs owned by domestic users.

This will make it possible to develop solutions that cut the cost of owning and running EVs, such as “smart charging” outside of the electricity network’s peak times. The data will notably be made open-use.

“EVs are a massive driver of opportunity in the shift to smart energy and decarbonised transport, but they also present a huge infrastructure challenge,” Hitachi’s director of social innovation and partnerships Nicole Thompson said.

 “There are many companies and initiatives trying to crack how we can practically roll out EVs at the required pace and scale – both in the UK and overseas- but too often we are working in siloes. This is not only cost-inefficient, but it ultimately slows down the transition.”

Optimise Prime will launch in early 2019, with the first of the new EVs set to be deployed across London, the South East and East of England in the second half of 2019.

£16.6m of the £34.6m needed to facilitate the project is being funded by network regulator Ofgem, with the remaining £18m being jointly invested by the companies taking part.

Green fleets

The announcement comes in the same week that new research by fleet management and telematics firm Geotab revealed that almost nine in ten of the UK’s fleet managers are planning to switch the majority of their diesel and petrol vehicles with EVs by 2028.

In an early sign of this trend, Optimise Prime partner UK Power Networks this year added fully-electric vans to its London-based fleet for the first time, after signing Global Action Plan’s Clean Van Commitment.

The commitment, which has been signed by 15 other businesses including Tesco and Network Rail, requires signatories to electrify their entire van fleets by 2028. If this pledge is met, the Department for Transport (DfT) estimates that 18,000 new EVs will be put on the road. 

Uber, meanwhile, is working towards a target of replacing its entire London fleet of passenger vehicles with EVs by 2025. It has set out plans to spend £200m on this ambition, and will add a 15p per-mile “eco-charge” to all journeys taken within the capital from early 2019 in a bid to raise further funding.

Five ideas to accelerate your electric fleet transition

edie has just published a new report which showcases the output of edie’s recent SPARK! event, where roundtable participants shared experiences of electrification of business fleets, and discussed the steps that can be taken to accelerate adoption and maximise the benefits of the electric vehicle (EV) transition. You can read that report for free, here

Sarah George

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie