UPS-led SEUL consortium switches on smart-grid fleet charging solution in London; maxing out on EVs without expensive grid upgrades
A UPS-led consortium has deployed new smart-grid charging technology in London that overcomes the challenge of simultaneously recharging an entire fleet of electric vehicles (EVs) without the need for the expensive upgrade to the power supply grid.
Recharging a fleet of electric vehicles can be extremely expensive as it often requires upgrades to the external power grid, an option not attractive to most businesses or operators. This new system will allow UPS to increase the number of EVs operating from the central London site from the current limit of 65 to all 170 trucks stationed there without the need for such upgrades. This is achieved with a smart-grid which uses a central server which is connected to each EV charge post as well as the grid power supply and the on-site energy storage.
A sophisticated network capacity assessment tool takes into account time of day variation in demand. The system adopts an “intelligent” approach to charging by spreading this throughout the night so that the building can use the power it needs to run the business of logistics (lights, sortation machinery and IT) and ensure that all EVs are fully charged by the time they are needed in the morning, but at the same time never exceed the maximum power available from the grid.
As a result of this project and the learning that comes with the related investments, UPS can now tailor the lowest cost approach building by building and determine how best to adopt and charge a fully electric fleet. This will be accomplished by combining a variety of solutions including conventional power grid upgrade, smart grid, on-site energy storage with batteries and local power generation (using, for example, solar energy generated on facility roof tops).
This advance—believed to be the first time these systems have been deployed at this scale anywhere in the world—is the result of the Smart Electric Urban Logistics (SEUL) project with UK Power Networks and Cross River Partnership, with funding secured from the UK’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles. SEUL is a two-year project that commenced in April 2017.
UPS thinks this is a world first, right in the heart of a mega-city. We are using new technology to work around some big obstacles to electric vehicle deployment, heralding a new generation of sustainable urban delivery services both here in London and in other major cities around the world.
Electric vehicles are an integral component within UPS’s alternative fuel and advanced technology fleet. Our collaboration with UK Power Networks and Cross River Partnership marks a major turning point in the cost effective deployment of electric vehicles which in turn will play a key role in ensuring the global trend toward urbanization is sustainable. We are applying new technology to make the charging process smarter and our delivery service cleaner.—Peter Harris, director of sustainability, UPS Europe
As a result of this initiative, combined with the advances the company announced just last month in reducing the cost of electric vehicles, UPS believes the day is rapidly drawing closer when the acquisition costs to put an electric vehicle on the road, including those associated with getting power to the vehicle, will be lower than the equivalent costs of its diesel counterpart.
This development will be instrumental in enabling electric vehicles to be deployed at scale in the world’s cities which is an essential component of tackling the air quality challenges in these urban environments.
A key part of this initiative is the use of onsite energy storage batteries. Although new batteries have been deployed at this stage, it is envisaged that in the future these could be second-life batteries that have already been used in a UPS EV. Together with the smart-grid, this will pave the way toward a UPS EV infrastructure strategy that can dynamically make use of a conventional power upgrade, a smart grid, onsite storage, and in many cases, local power generation including solar and other alternative sources.
Our previous work on electric freight vehicles has shown that local grid infrastructure constraints are one of the main barriers to their large-scale uptake. We need to find smarter solutions to electric vehicle charging if we want to benefit from the significant air quality and environmental benefits these vehicles offer, and we believe this is such a solution.—Tanja Dalle-Muenchmeyer, program manager, electric freight at Cross River Partnership
UPS has a long history with EVs, having first introduced them into its fleet in the 1930s, and, reintroduced modern EVs in 2001. Currently, UPS has more than 300 electric vehicles and nearly 700 hybrid electric vehicles deployed in Europe and the US. The company recently ordered 125 new fully-electric Semi tractors to be built by Tesla in 2019, one of the largest pre-orders to date.
Additionally, last September, UPS announced it will become the first commercial customer in the US to start using three medium-duty electric trucks from Daimler Trucks Fuso brand, called the eCanter.
These initiatives will help UPS attain its goal of one in four new vehicles purchased by 2020 being an alternative fuel or advanced technology vehicle. The company also has pledged to obtain 25% of the electricity it consumes from renewable energy sources by 2025 and replace 40% of all ground fuel with sources other than conventional gasoline and diesel, an increase from 19.6% in 2016.