Having had a try out with a Nissan Leaf, I was ready for a longer journey in one, and the Ecobuild Event in March gave me the perfect opportunity. It was located at the Excel Centre in London’s docklands so was a good distance from home in Northampton, but not far as to make me nervous in a new car.
I booked the car from the e-Car Club as before. However, there wasn’t one free in Northampton this time so I had to get one from Wolverton, near Milton Keynes. That wasn’t a problem, though, as it was on the way to London. An advantage was that this Leaf had a satnav, which was noticeably missing from the Northampton one.
The journey was relatively straightforward, though it turned out that I was overconfident in my knowledge of the Leaf. It appeared to indicate that it had enough range to get me from MK to Excel without charging. However, I hadn’t appreciated that the satnav was set to choose the shortest distance route. Instead I had planned to stay on the motorway as much as possible, around the M25 and down the M11. Therefore as I passed ‘shortcuts’ off the motorway at each junction the satnav kept recalculating the remaining distance, and of course it kept increasing. One to remember for next time!
Anyway, to cut a long story short I had to pull off just short of my destination to get a top-up in Ilford. As has happened before, I suffered from not knowing the foibles of the local charging infrastructure. There didn’t seem to be charge points where they were supposed to be according the Zap-Map, and one that did exist had tapes over it saying “QA Passed Awaiting Commission”!
I finally got a charge in a local council office car park, courtesy of the staff, though I had to share the charge point with an employee’s Toyota Prius. However I was disappointed to hear that it wasn’t supposed to be on the public map and that they would now apply to have it removed!
The irony was that having arrived at the Excel car park, and hunting out the area marked out for public charge points, there were dozens to choose from. Since the Ilford charge point had only been a slow one, and so I had only got a partial charge, I was very grateful to plug in here.
Ecobuild is marketed as ‘The sustainable design, construction and energy event for new build, refurb, commercial and domestic buildings’. My interest in it was primarily about looking for potential domestic energy solutions for Fuel Included customers. Essentially these were solar panel systems, and domestic energy storage systems (ESS), both of which fit well with an electric car household.
I began my visit by meeting up with a colleague and having lunch. Then we toured the hall just seeing what caught our eye. There were dozens of stands offering solar panel systems – it is clearly now a commodity product. Of more interest was the handful of stands offering home battery storage – a market that is obviously in its infancy, but which has great potential for the future.
Most of the storage systems were unpriced, or had guide price that were very high – of the order of £5000-£10000 for a typical domestic system. However, we spoke at some length with Joe Warren, MD of Powervault, about their system and found it very interesting. It uses lead-acid batteries currently (to be economic) and so systems with capacities in the 2 to 4kWh range could be had for £1800 to £2200 respectively which is very encouraging. Later versions will have the option of Lithium Ion batteries.
After a loop of the hall we used our remaining time to attend a seminar entitled ‘Ask the expert: Energy storage masterclass’. This had five presentations, including ‘Energy Storage Systems’ by SMA Solar, ‘Optimising PV storage with electric vehicles’ by British Gas, and ‘Utilities perspective on storage’ by SSE.
However, the standout presentation for me was ‘Distributed battery storage with Maslow’ by Simon Daniel, Founder and Chief executive of Moixa Technology. He talked about work done by Moixa on developing and trialling domestic storage systems, combined with a vision for using distributed storage at scale for network control and balancing. I think this strategy fits very well with Fuel Included’s philosophy of providing domestic electric vehicles, solar power and energy storage so perhaps our paths will cross again at some point in the future.
After the event was over for the day I returned to the Leaf and found it fully charged. Notwithstanding that, I planned to stop off on the way home for a quick charge. I did this uneventfully at South Mimms, after fighting through dreadful traffic to get away from Docklands. I then dropped the car in Wolverton before heading back home in my ZOE.
It had been a very useful day, not just in terms of learning about future energy systems, but also in getting some real-world usage of a Leaf.