Batteries could play a key role in helping to roll out an electric vehicle supercharger network across the U.K., according to a company called Pivot Power.
The firm, which describes itself as a special-purpose venture formed between energy storage project developer Become Energy and renewables investment company Downing, hopes to install the world’s biggest battery network.
It plans to deploy forty-five 50-megawatt batteries at substations close to major auto routes across the U.K. Each battery would make money from grid services and energy trading.
Crucially, though, the cost of adapting each substation for battery storage would also allow it to be used for EV charging.
By connecting rapid charging stations directly to the high-voltage transmission network, Pivot Power intends to gain access to up to 20 megawatts of cheap power per site. This would grant it efficiencies that would be hard to attain via regional distribution network connections.
The battery installations are a vital part of the plan, though, because converting a substation to deliver vehicle-charging services would require “seven figures’ worth of work to be done,” according to Matthew Boulton, chief operating officer.
“It’s not like a DNO [distribution network operator] application. It’s a far more complex process.”
This significantly weakens the business case for standalone vehicle charger installations. Under Pivot Power’s plan, though, “these chargers are only there because a 50-megawatt battery has paid for the connection,” Boulton said.
EV charging, once up and running, would create extra revenue for the battery system. The battery, meanwhile, would be able to store cheap electricity, so vehicle owners could charge their cars at a discount compared to standard tariffs.
Along with its 2-gigawatt battery network, Pivot Power aims to install the world’s largest network of rapid charging stations, with up to 100 rapid 150-kilowatt chargers plus 350-kilowatt charging points when the technology becomes available.
The "world’s largest network" claim may be disputed by the charger infrastructure company ChargePoint, which this month boasted more than 49,000 charging points and 767 express DC chargers across U.S. cities including Boston, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
Pivot Power said it aims to have batteries up and running at 10 sites within 18 months. The first site, on the south coast of England, is due to go live by the middle of next year, subject to planning approval.
Overall, the rollout will cost an estimated GBP £1.6 billion (USD $2.1 billion) and will create enough energy storage capacity to supply 235,000 average U.K. homes for a day, Pivot Power said.
The storage capacity would be roughly equal to two-thirds of the power planned for Britain’s controversial Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant, the company pointed out.
Downing, which has invested more than £500 million ($134 million) into renewable energy across more than 100 deals since 2010, is funding the initial phase of the project and plans to provide further cash as the rollout of rapid charging stations progresses, Pivot Power said.
The company is looking to raise further backing from institutional investors and a crowdfunding drive. Michael Liebreich, the founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, is also an adviser and investor in the business.
Besides Boulton, who was previously chief operating officer at Solarcentury, the firm’s top team includes former BNEF global commercial head Matthew Allen as CEO and ex-Tempus Energy network optimization head Michael Clark as chief technical officer.
Clark told GTM that Pivot Power would be using lithium-ion batteries for the project, but the company is still in the process of selecting technology vendors. The battery technology “is likely to be from more than one company to keep it bankable and reduce the risk,” he said.
Pivot Power believes rolling out a fast-charger network will help speed the uptake of electric vehicles in the U.K.
According to U.K. Department for Transport research carried out in 2016, 45 percent of drivers were deterred from buying an electric vehicle because of a lack of chargers, and 39 percent were concerned about the distance they could travel on a single charge.