Western Power Distribution and Ricardo to lead project tapping latent capacity in networks to power charging hubs
In the UK, Western Power Distribution and Ricardo are leading a new project—DC share—that will develop and trial a novel solution to use latent capacity in distribution networks to power charging hubs. DC Share will share capacity across existing AC electricity distribution network substations, enabling increased numbers of high-power electric vehicle (EV) chargers to be connected to the network at lower cost.
DC Share has been awarded funding by the UK energy market regulator Ofgem (the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets) through the Network Innovation Competition Project. The project aims to use latent capacity in distribution networks, which is difficult to access using traditional means.
The DC share project will trial a novel approach to supplying rapid charging hubs, using power electronics to extract power from existing substations and distributing this to rapid EV charge points via a new high capacity DC cable network.
The location of the rapid chargers will be an important factor in the successful widespread uptake of EVs and should be dictated by user requirements, rather than network constraints, the partners said. To ensure charger availability for multiple users, rapid chargers are expected to be deployed in hubs, meaning that significant amounts of power will be needed in one location.
While an existing substation might be able to connect one or two rapid chargers, if they are required at scale, network reinforcement is likely to be needed. DC Share will facilitate the connection of rapid charging facilities in locations where they are required by users, using latent capacity in the surrounding networks to minimize the cost of connection.
The trial will explore the comparative benefits of a DC network, where power flows can be actively managed, and fault level contained, over the traditional approach of AC network reinforcement. The DC Share project will lay a new high capacity DC equalization cable network, which will balance demands so that transformers experiencing heavy demand receive support from those that are more lightly loaded. This approach enables uncertainty in demand to be managed more effectively, optimizing power flows in real time to react as needed.
This project will use the expertise of Ricardo’s energy team which has extensive expertise in implementing smart grid solutions, and its partners: WPD, who will be the funding licensee; ENWL; Turbo Power Systems, who will develop substation converters and rapid chargers; and Vectos, whose transport planning expertise will provide charger planning support.