Park & Flex: exploring the vehicle-to-grid potential of long-stay car parks

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The longest period of time most cars will remain stationary is when the owners are…

The longest period of time most cars will remain stationary is when the owners are on holiday. New research has now looked at how the presence of electric vehicles in mid to long-stay car parks could best be utilised for everyone’s benefit.

A joint project between Baringa, Fermata Energy, UK Power Networks and the GLA called ‘Park & Flex’ has explored the potential of using vehicle to grid (V2G) technology in such situations.

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Early research from the innovative study has found that more than 1.3 million homes could be powered by filling up electric cars’ batteries in long-stay car parks when energy is cheap and demand is low – for example during sunny days or windy nights – and injecting power back into the system at peak times.

There are 2.4 million parking bays in the UK, 6% of which are long stay, such as airports; and 13% of which are mid-stay, these being hotels and train stations

The study used advanced modelling alongside both UK Power Networks’ and energy specialist Baringa’s forecasts for the number of electric vehicles on Britain’s roads in the coming years.

Long-stay car parks such as airports were shown to offer increased benefits over shorter term solutions such as hotels or supermarket car parks, with a customer’s flight dates dictating the precise length of a vehicle’s stay, giving network operators greater insight into spare power or capacity they can call on at any time.

It is estimated £1.3 billion in flexible energy savings could be made by 2050 if rolled out across the 140,000 long-stay parking spaces in the areas UK Power Networks serves in the south and east of England.

Director of customer service and innovation at UK Power Networks Ian Cameron said: ‘As more and more people begin to adopt green technologies, we’re able to innovate and explore tangible scenarios that could make a real difference on the path to Net Zero.

‘Through Park and Flex, we foresee a world where dormant vehicles can be used as the building blocks for one of the UK’s biggest flex batteries. This dynamic battery, fuelled by thousands upon thousands of electric vehicles could play a massive role in creating a new green energy supply, and could do so without customers having to lift a finger.’

The Park and Flex project is supported by funding from Innovate UK’s Strategic Innovation Fund. As the study continues, it will seek to understand how the new vision could be rolled out nationally and identify the customer incentives needed to make it happen.

The next stage of the research will investigate what needs to be done to achieve buy-in from the commercial stakeholders, that is: drivers and car-park owners.

Tony Posawatz, CEO of Fermata Energy said: ‘With ramping sales of electric vehicles, gigawatts of energy storage capacity can be accessed with bi-directional (V2G) charging to support UK distribution networks during peak events.

‘Airports have enormous public car parks and large electrical systems throughout. With thousands of vehicles parked for hours to days at a time, enormous value can be unlocked in key grid locations providing resilience and stability, while lowering costs. This first-of-its kind Park and Flex study will demonstrate the scalable benefits of V2G technology in public car parks for grid networks and consumers alike.’

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