City of Edinburgh Council, Heriot-Watt University and Flexible Power Systems (FPS) have secured funding worth £1.6 million to investigate the benefits of wireless electric vehicle (EV) charging.
Wireless charging allows EVs to recharge while parked on charging pads instead of using cables that need to be manually plugged in by a driver.
In what is being claimed as the UK’s first wireless charging hub for light commercial vehicles, devices will be installed at Heriot Watt University’s Edinburgh campus in early 2021 to service specially adapted vans from both City of Edinburgh Council and Heriot-Watt’s fleet.
The technology has already been proven for mass transit applications and will be supplied by specialist firm, Momentum Dynamics.
The project is being funded by the Office for Low-Emission Vehicles (OLEV) and delivered through Innovate UK.
A similar six-month trial of wireless charging technology for electric taxis in Nottingham was announced by the UK government at the start of the year.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said that the £3.4m scheme could pave the way for a revolution in EV charging.
This latest project aims to accelerate the transition to EV in commercial vehicle fleets by reducing the cost of charging the vans.
The project team says that high-powered wireless electric vehicle charging is expected to have considerable benefits for commercial vehicle users, including: faster starts to charging sessions with no downtime for plugging in to improve vehicle use and create bigger benefits from opportunity charging sessions; no cables to cause trip hazards or require maintenance; and future proofing for the advent of autonomous vehicles (which will not have a driver to plug them in).
The project ultimately aims to apply wireless charging to shared logistics hubs where fulfilment functions can be combined with charging.
Wireless charging technology will be applied to improve vehicle turnaround times and staff productivity at the hubs enhancing cost savings, it says.
FPS’ managing director, Michael Ayres explained: “Productivity drivers and longer journeys mean commercial vehicles may need to charge away from the depot or at high speeds during the day.
“Rapid and ultra-rapid chargers required for a fast turnaround make up less than 25 per cent of publicly available chargers and can be difficult to access if they are in use or out of service.”
High-power rapid chargers can be expensive both in terms of the chargers themselves and the electricity network infrastructure required to support them, says Ayres.
Sharing the cost of the charger and the connection through a shared charging hub can mitigate a portion of these costs.
He continued: “The project is testing sharing of the charging hubs between logistics, retailer, local government, and university owned commercial vehicles.
“These charging hubs require high use to be economically viable. The project uses powerful wireless charging to shorten the length of time vehicles need to be in the charging hubs.
“At the same time, we are investigating adding basic fulfilment capabilities to improve the productivity of logistics vehicles visiting the hubs.”