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Taunton to host innovative electric vehicle charging project

29 July 2020 : Council news, Environment

Taunton residents will be able to enjoy free electric vehicle (EV) charging as part of an innovative new project that is being hosted in the town.

Local electricity operator Western Power Distribution (WPD) has confirmed that Taunton will be the site for the pioneering DC Share project due to site suitability and the proactive engagement of the local councils.

The project is trialling new technology which harnesses spare capacity in local substations to power EV chargers quickly at a lower cost for consumers.

The project, a first for the UK, could help deliver an estimated 217,000 EV chargers in urban spaces across WPD’s licence area by 2023. The scheme aims to get over 110,000 EVs moving across the South West by 2023.

The trial will use smart technology to unlock spare electrical capacity from across Taunton to power 15 rapid EV chargers. This will include five chargers which are intended to fully recharge the average electric vehicle in around 30 minutes.

Following site confirmation, work will now begin preparing the local plans for the EV charge stations in central Taunton.

With building work scheduled throughout 2021, the charge points are due to be available for public use by the Spring of 2022.

Throughout the trial, local residents will enjoy 12 months of free electric vehicle charging. Following the conclusion of the project, the EV charge stations will be passed on to a local service provider so that visitors and residents can continue to reap the benefits of this increasingly essential low carbon infrastructure.

DC (direct current) is a constant electrical electric charge similar to the output of a battery and is used by nearly all low carbon technologies. Using DC technology rather than the more commonly used AC (alternating current) means that the use of electricity is more efficient as it does not have to go through the conversion process, which results in a loss of energy.

DC charge also means that there is the flexibility to move power to where there is a high load, something which is more difficult to achieve with AC.

The long-term plan is for the technology to be rolled out across other parts of the UK. It is estimated that DC Share’s technology could save customers across the UK an estimated £162 million in network reinforcement costs by 2050.

These savings will be made by allowing network providers to make smarter use of the existing electricity network, harnessing existing substations and capacity, rather than investing millions in new infrastructure.

DC Share’s approach will be particularly useful in dense urban communities, where the adoption of low carbon technologies can be slowed by constraints and a lack of available space for building a larger network of substations.

Ricky Duke, WPD Innovation and Low Carbon Network Engineer, commented: “Today’s confirmation of Taunton as the DC Share project site is an important step to securing the massive savings and decarbonisation benefits that DC meshing technology could bring to the UK.

“As we look beyond COVID-19 towards the UK’s goal of Net Zero by 2050, innovative, low carbon technologies will be at the heart of the UK’s green recovery. Insights from DC Share will have a key role in helping us to build a stronger and cleaner UK economy.

“DC Share is a win-win: this technology will allow us to rapidly decarbonise transport by making smarter use of existing infrastructure. That means less carbon emissions, while reducing the need for expensive infrastructure and network reinforcements in constrained urban communities.”

Local constituency MP and Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “It is wonderful news that Taunton is leading the way in decarbonising road transport, helping people to make the switch to EVs.

As the local MP I’ve worked hard with Western Power Distribution to get this project secured and am absolutely delighted that Taunton has been selected. This will chime really well with our garden town status too, an initiative I was pleased to be part of.”

Councillor Peter Pilkington, Lead Member for Climate Change at Somerset West and Taunton council commented: “We’re delighted to host this ground-breaking low carbon energy trial, bringing essential EV charging infrastructure to the local residents of Taunton.

“This complements SWT initiatives across the wider district such as our rural electric vehicle charging point fund for parish and town councils. Encouraging and enabling the use of electric vehicles is an important part of working towards making the council and the area as a whole carbon neutral by 2030.”

Michael Feasey, the overall Project Manager from Ricardo said: “This project takes UK networks another step forward in developing flexible networks and supporting the mass adoption of electric vehicles.

By using a DC equalization network to support the existing infrastructure and to facilitate large demand from rapid chargers, we are demonstrating that there are alternatives to traditional reinforcement. We are delighted to be using the combined expertise from all Project Partners to help the UK transition to a low carbon economy.”

See here for more information on the DC Share project.