Royal Mail is in the process of electrifying its fleet

Electric Green plans to bring bi-directional wireless charging to the electric vehicle sector in a trial that starts in October. Working with green energy supplier Q Energy, it will demonstrate the advantages of the technology for fleet operators, in a pilot of 10 Royal Mail converted electric vehicles (EVs) that will consume and return unused energy to the grid.

Electric Green is one of four companies that has secured a share of £4.8 million in government funding to explore how surplus electricity stored in electric vehicle (EV) batteries can be used to balance peaks in supply and demand on the UK’s electricity grid.

Supported by funding from Innovate UK, and part of the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero’s V2X Innovation Programme, the Electric Green-led partnership will use Peugeot e-Partner vans deployed on ‘last mile’ delivery work retrofitted with wireless technology that will run alongside their existing plug-in capability.

Martin Beaumont, chief executive officer at Electric Green, expects Royal Mail’s Kingston, London hub to be the chosen site. As well as generating a predicted £350 to £500 revenue from each vehicle that will be sold back to the grid or used elsewhere in the business, he says the project will benefit from charging equipment being sited away from operational areas. This means it will be free from trip hazards, with no moving parts liable to cause damage.

Once proven, the technology could be highly significant in five years, he predicts, with vehicle manufacturers offering it as a factory fitted option on new cars and light commercial vehicles. Motorists and fleet operators would be able to charge without moving from their vehicle. People with mobility issues or those who feel vulnerable leaving their car at night will also recognise the benefits, he says.

Another benefit is that taxis, ambulances, and goods vehicles could be charged as they move over a series of charging pads at taxi ranks, hospital emergency units, or haulage depots. “This type of opportunity charging will mean that charging becomes embedded in the business process, rather than being a discreet activity in its own right,” says Beaumont.

“Ultimately EVs will be adopted because of legislation, but vehicle manufacturers will be able to gain share by having superior products and an enhanced customer and operator experience by not having to plug-in with a cable. People love wireless charging and put a premium on hands-free. If something can go wireless it generally has done so far. Look at computers, we don’t all plug in to wi-fi these days with ethernet cables,” he adds.

He says Royal Mail uses 38,000 of its 40,000-strong fleet for so-called last mile delivery work, so the savings on its short haul operation could be as much as £15m a year. Royal Mail has been rapidly building its EV fleet, which currently stands at 5,000 vehicles, but the company is looking at wireless charging, and Electric Green’s design in particular, as a way to accelerate its electrification strategy.

Electric Green’s wireless charging uses Capacitive Transfer System (CTS) technology, which Beaumont says enables the 85 kHz frequency power used in wireless charging to travel up to 100 metres with no voltage drop. Beaumont says the technology will play a pivotal role in decarbonising the UK’s logistics sector, by unlocking productivity gains, introducing safer working environments, and helping to deliver net zero.

“We are confident our wireless charging solution will help Royal Mail to not only decarbonise their fleet but drive forward cost-saving efficiencies in their productivity by removing the need to plug-in their vehicles,” he says.

“Together with Royal Mail and Q Energy, we aim to make a significant impact on the decarbonisation of the logistics sector and contribute to the electrification of road transport”.

Another recipient of the funding, 3ti, which designs, installs, funds and operates solar car parks in the UK, is running a project to demonstrate that EVs plugged in at workplaces, leisure destinations, fleet depots and delivery hubs can help balance electricity supply and demand. It is setting out to integrate bi-directional DC charging and the associated power management systems into Papilio3, a pop-up solar car park and EV charging hub. The final phase of the project includes a six-month ‘real world’ trial using a fleet of 10-plus EVs as grid assets.

It brings together 3ti with advanced EV power solutions provider Turbo Power Systems (TPS), smart energy company GridBeyond, and EV and decarbonisation specialist Cenex, in a 17-month collaboration to deliver a “state-of-the art” system.

Mark Potter, chief technical officer at 3ti, says: “Everybody wants more EVs on the grid. They represent a massive scale distributed energy resource that can be used to balance real-time supply and demand. This project will prove that bi-directional EV charging can work in the real world. Connected EVs will be teamed together to act as virtual power and energy storage facilities, with each car releasing and replenishing its stored energy according to user preferences and grid demand. This generates income and cost savings, which can be passed on to our customers.”

The other two companies benefiting from the scheme are Hangar19 in Chelmsford and Otaski Energy Solutions in Gateshead. Hangar 19 will demonstrate a three-socket bi-directional charger, making a wider range of EVs available for energy flexibility and di-directional charging. And Otaski Energy Solutions will trial its bi-directional EV charger to enable fleet EV operators to access energy in a flexible way.