4 Dec 18

World's largest electric commercial vehicle trial to start in UK

A new project will see three major fleets trial up to 3,000 electric commercial vehicles in England, with the first vans expected to hit the road in the second half of 2019.

The initiative claims to be the world’s biggest trial of EVs, and has drawn together fleets, suppliers and energy networks. Centrica (parent of British Gas), Uber and an as yet unnamed parcel courier will run the EVs, supported by Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions, the leasing and fleet management company, as well as Hitachi Europe and Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks.

The project argues that electric vehicle technology has reached the point where day-to-day operational use is viable for commercial fleets, but it acknowledges that several obstacles stand in the way of mass EV uptake.

Overcome EV barriers

These barriers include the acquisition cost of the vehicles, the time it takes to recharge them, and whether the electricity grid can cope at both a national and local level with the extra demand of EVs.

The three-year trial aims to deliver a detailed analysis of the implications of the vehicle parc switching from fossil fuels to battery power. In particular, the trial will investigate what the adoption of electric vehicles will mean for power suppliers, whether vehicle-to-grid systems (that see vehicles feed electricity back into the grid at times of high demand) are feasible, and what new infrastructure will be required.

The trial will cover home, depot and on-the-road charging, with the aim of creating solutions that cut the cost of operating electric vehicles. These include smart charging outside the electricity network’s peak times.

Widespread adoption of EVs is essential if the UK is to meet its ambitious carbon reduction targets, but battery-powered vehicles currently account for only 1.7% of sales. This percentage has to increase to 60% by 2030 for the country to meet its climate change commitments.


Authored by: Jonathan Manning