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By Nigel Morris, Electric Vehicle Integration Manager

Vehicle electrification is part of the Active Building Centre vision to transform UK construction and energy through Active Buildings.

The trend for electrification of transport is increasing. Currently if the UK was to have a mass adoption of electric vehicles the grid demand would be too great to cope.

Active Buildings integrate into our building design the ability to locally generate and store energy to charge vehicles.

But there’s more to it.

Electric vehicles and Active Buildings

Vehicle electrification in the Active Building concept looks at how we can get energy from the vehicle to use its stored energy to power the buildings. This transforms cars from simply energy consumers, as they have the ability to store and release energy.

The technology is there to use electric vehicles to power buildings. There are some immediate obvious advantages to this. If you have a power cut, you can keep your freezer running with your car. After Fukushima, Japanese authorities hooked up electric vehicles to run a small hospital.

Vehicles could buffer energy. You could shed the surplus energy from a building to your vehicles. If your building needed it, if it was energy deficit, you could take a bit from the vehicle. You can use your vehicle to power the home or office when electricity might be expensive and in great demand. Likewise, you can charge up your electric vehicle when energy is cheaper and there’s not so much demand on the grid, as opposed to peak times, such as between 5.30 and 7.30 in the evening.

Electric vehicle legislation and policy

Although this is currently technologically possible to do, there’s a lot of red tape around it. Legislation makes it difficult. Industry is being encouraged to facilitate vehicle electrification but not mandated to do it.

The legislation is currently focused on centralised power stations.

The Active Building Centre has a team of people working on influencing policy.

My objective is to demonstrate the benefits of the technology. To show how we can integrate vehicles into Active Buildings. The positive results feed into the engagement team to influence the policy. My job is to source the equipment, get it working, and evidence it.

Removing barriers

Vehicle electrification appears to be more common place in other European countries. They are doing a lot of this, and it works well for for countries such as Germany.

In Europe they don’t have the same barriers to uptake we have in the UK. Currently in the UK you need a number of different charging cards. They don’t have that model in Europe.

You can go anywhere with any card. We need to remove barriers. We need to consider the driver experience, for example, carrying loads of cards. It’s a barrier to uptake as it’s messy, not easy and straightforward.

The legislation is key. All new buildings need to incorporate this electric vehicle model to transform the construction industry. Or it will be a consumer led approach, driven by demand. But then the length of time it takes to build a building, we don’t want to leave it too late as the grid can’t manage the demand.

Driving the uptake of electric vehicles

There is a role for workplace and domestic car parks to play in enabling the uptake of electric vehicles. At the Active Building Centre we aim to enable power delivery to vehicles in domestic and commercial buildings. If this is designed in, not added later, there are economic advantages to the consumer.

And major advantages to the local and national grid operators.

We won’t fry the grid, we’ll assist it!

Proving the case for electric vehicles

By demonstrating smart charging systems to help balance the loads on the grid, we avoid the panic if we have to upgrade the grid when everybody switches to electric vehicles. Active Buildings help enable vehicle electrification for the UK where the grid currently wouldn’t be able to cope.

My aim with the Active Building Centre is to show the next steps in terms of innovation around electric vehicle integration, driving the adoption of zero emission vehicles.

The innovation of the Active Buildings concept will help to decarbonise buildings and fleets and balance the grid, transforming construction and contributing to the UK’s decarbonisation targets.

Published July 2019