Students with an electric vehicle-ESI launch

An electric vehicle, shown here alongside students visiting for the launch of the Environment and Sustainability Institute.

Image: Matt Jessop

New research explores integrated electric vehicle and energy generation system

Computer based models are being used to assess the costs and benefits of integrating electric vehicles into the Cornish energy system.

The work is part of a new research project at the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) to investigate how increasing local renewable energy generation may be better harnessed, and put to greater use within Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. 

Both full electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid types will be considered as part of the research that aims to identify ways to develop an integrated electric vehicle and renewable energy system. Combining transport and energy systems could bring a number of potential benefits including: maximising the local gain from Cornish renewable energy installations; reducing carbon and air pollutant emissions, and costs within the transport sector; and helping to balance the local electricity grid by using vehicles as energy storage devices.

“A significant portion of the electricity generated from renewable sources in Cornwall is currently sold to the national electricity grid, rather than being consumed locally and more efficiently near to the point of generation” said Dr Xiaoyu Yan, an engineer and specialist in sustainable energy systems and low carbon transport technologies who is leading the work. “This is due to a mismatch between the timing of electricity demand and intermittent energy generation. The costs associated with transmission and distribution mean that local generators and communities are not maximising the value of their contribution, and the electricity grid is experiencing an increasing challenge to balance supply and demand.”

Highlighting the value of electrical vehicles, Dr Yan commented: “At the same time, transportation accounts for 20% of carbon emission and nearly half of Cornwall’s energy spend. We hope, through this project, to explore innovative ways to maximise the benefits that an integrated energy and electric vehicle system can bring and to provide evidence to better inform decision making around energy and transport policy.”

The ESI is working with businesses and enterprises across all sectors of the economy in Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and beyond to translate research and expertise into innovative business practices, products and services in order to respond to the challenges of environmental change. It has been funded by the European Regional Development Fund Convergence Programme (£22.9M) and the South West Regional Development Agency (£6.6M), with significant support from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
Dr Yan is currently seeking collaborators with an interest, and/or expertise, in electric vehicles or renewable energy systems. To register your interest in this project, or attendance at future events associated with it, please contact Leo McLeman, Knowledge Exchange Manager.

Date: 16 December 2013

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