By Simon McWhirter, Head of Engagement
Increasing electric car sales have dominated the UK news agenda, capturing the imagination of the national media and highlighting that we are on the cusp of a sea change for business and consumer vehicle purchasing decisions.
Of course, this is to be welcomed as transport manufacturers start to embrace greener, more sustainable transport solutions. However, the main question is whether we have the energy capacity to support it.
It’s all very well to be a nation of electric vehicle (EV) drivers but it seems an unrealistic prospect as our infrastructure struggles to keep pace with adoption. If the UK was to go electric overnight, the grid demand would be too great to cope. It’s a conundrum we urgently need to solve if we plan to phase out petrol and diesel from the transport network.
So let me take this opportunity to throw down a gauntlet. I think that the nation’s housebuilders and developers have a golden opportunity (and a wider responsibility) to encourage more EV take-up and simultaneously play an active role to prepare the sector for when internal combustion engines are phased out.
Currently, the majority of the UK’s homes are not properly equipped to support EV use and are not designed with it in mind. One way to change this rapidly, with minimal disruption, is to start incorporating ‘Active’ solutions into new build homes.
How active buildings are supporting the wider energy system
In brief, Active solutions (or systems) are those which enable a building to support the wider energy system by intelligently integrating renewable energy technologies for heat, power and transport. Significantly, it reduces demand on the national grid, a crucial step towards mass adoption of EVs.
It’s not a radical proposal, but equally, it’s not as banal as tacking a solar panel to the roof and an extra power outlet on the driveway or garage. What we’re referring to is an intuitive system by which energy is directly generated through photovoltaic panels on the home’s walls and facades, stored in the structure of the building itself and then released on demand through a smart management system.
Active buildings for ev use
The idea is that, as well as heating and powering appliances in the home, it would also power the occupant’s car. It’s a potentially zero-emission solution which should be welcomed in line with the industry-wide push towards net-zero carbon by 2050.
To demonstrate the potential of these ‘Active Homes’ for EV use, our founder Prof. Dave Worsley has been able to cover over 20,000 miles of road in the last 12 months, solely using electricity generated from an Active Building at our test site in Swansea University. It’s quite an achievement, highlighting a huge saving for the householder and a way that housebuilders can significantly add long-term, sustainable value into the property.
The new government, whichever hue it is, will have the ability to legislate and incentivise to make it more attractive for housebuilders to consider EV infrastructure as part of their future developments. All main parties have made strong commitments to supporting EV manufacturing. Promoting Active Building solutions could help to achieve this goal.
Looking to 2020, I think we need to increase an understanding about how homes can work harder towards a net zero carbon future. Building with electric vehicles in mind is just one way of doing it.