EVs and Solar – a match made in renewable heaven?

It is often said that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That’s exactly how we feel about Solar PV and Electric Vehicles (EV); with the interaction of these two elements being hugely powerful and essential for the future.

Solar and EV concepts are more familiar to the general public than ever before. People are more mindful of their own energy usage and EV has been all over the news thanks to car manufacturers’ commitments. UK householders know of solar through consumer rooftop programmes and have more awareness of renewables more widely; often installing renewables in their homes or noticing wind and solar farms on the horizon.

The synergy between EV and solar is clear.

  • There’s a growing awareness and an intrinsic need for both
  • The innovative products work well together
  • Together they clearly provide a solution for a future demand

This isn’t just theory either. Solar and EV synergy is already demonstrated across the UK, with a growing number of solar powered EV charging stations now in place.

 

The UK Department for Transport (DtF) has recently released figures suggesting at least 270,000 EV charging points will need to be created in the UK over the next 8 years to keep up with demand. This increase from the current 30,000 charging points nationwide would see more charging points in the country than petrol pumps. This is inline with the Government’s target to phase out the sale of petrol and diesel internal combustion road vehicles by 2030.

Large scale vision, long term impact. 
Solar rooftops are a common sight – but not yet are driveway EV charge points powered by that solar. We are seeing more and more EV charge points at service stations which is an exciting development – but they aren’t often powered by renewable energy sources. There’s still work to do.

Solar rooftops are a common sight – but not yet are driveway EV charge points powered by that solar. We are seeing more and more EV charge points at service stations which is an exciting development – but they aren’t often powered by renewable energy sources. There’s still work to do.

We need to get solar powered EV solutions to the places where cars are parked during the day, ready for when the EV demand increases – which we know it will. That’s why we’ve been so proud to have developed the UK’s largest solar carport solution; constructed this year for Bentley Motors in Cheshire – and currently up for ‘Best in Show’ at the 2018 Solar Power Portal Awards.


This isn’t a double act, it’s a trio. 
We can’t talk solar and EV without mentioning battery storage. The conversation can’t just be on harnessing energy to serve the EV cars there and then, but how to store power for future use or to send back to the grid. This exciting combination of products and solutions is what the future looks like.

Synergy on its own isn’t enough, where do we go from here?

Despite their incredible capabilities, current solar and EV developments on their own aren’t enough. There are continuing challenges – raising capital for Research and Development (R&D) can be difficult – although Innovate UK continue to be supportive. Investment in R&D is essential, and it’s one of many key drivers for us at FlexiSolar. It can’t just come from us though. The motor industry needs to step up too; to allow the EV charger to ‘talk’ to the car (as part of a longer-term Vehicle to Grid (V2G) vision). Commitment also needs to come from companies offering Energy Management Software; with open protocols in place for the software to ‘talk’ to the EV charger, battery storage and solar PV. When all these technologies can openly communicate they can operate collaboratively and complimentary, and so more efficiently. That’s exactly how our software is built; it is open from the day it is installed.



Smart Land use 

Purchasing and developing land to deliver EV charging stations and incorporating the renewable solutions into the land development can also be problematic. That’s why we’re committed to designing and installing integrated large-scale solar carports using existing land resources. This offers the benefits of a system on land that’s already fit for purpose – using space above the car park, without interfering with the car park; just like we now see at Bentley Motors.

The large-scale solar carport consists of 10,000 solar panels, which have a capacity of 2.7MW, cover 1,378 car parking spaces and an area of 16,426m².

Throughout the project, work was managed in sections, so that Bentley was able to utilise large areas of the car park during installation.  All the piles were driven on-site and trenching for the cables completed, with the team then focussing on the installation of the Super-Structure that are the primary components of the unique solar carport structures across the 27 parking rows.

Speaking about the large-scale construction at the Bentley Motors site, Interim Managing Director of FlexiSolar, Robert Carpenter said: “We are delighted with the completion of the UK’s largest solar carport system that could reduce CO2 by 3,300 tonnes per year; with our team and solar carport design working exceptionally well to deliver a solution.”

Sales Director of FlexiSolar, Guy Morrison said: “The large-scale solar carport concept is the very DNA of our business and our belief in its impact is at the heart of our team. But this isn’t just advanced thinking for energy generation and EV charging – it’s an essential and financially beneficial technology advancement for all businesses and communities and it’s important that we continue to spread this message.”

Guy continued: “Demands on energy continue to increase. We know that today’s businesses are already energy conscious, but it’s not enough. Through ‘Driving Solar Evolution’, we call on the forward-thinking businesses of tomorrow to show that they are truly committed to energy security and carbon reduction.”

We expect to see large developments in the commercialisation of integrated EV/solar partnerships in the UK in the immediate years ahead. Here at FlexiSolar, we certainly have our own plans as to how to build on this essential area – starting with our live SmartHubs vehicle to grid projects, funded by Innovate UK. Through our SmartHubs projects and our Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, we’re developing slow, fast and rapid EV chargers as well as V2G technology incorporating battery storage. Solutions set to be powered by solar carports, connected to the grid and sold back to it. It’s an exciting time for the solar and EV sectors – and we can’t wait to see where the current synergies take us. We’ll be sharing further insights and brand-new project launches on our stand at EMEX 2018 in November…