Hitachi completes major fleet charging trial Optimise Prime

In the UK, the fleet charging project Optimise Prime has come to an end. The trials began in July 2021, led by Hitachi Europe and UK Power Networks, with over 8,000 electric vehicles from Centrica, Uber and Royal Mail. The findings will help all parties to understand better what large-scale rollouts require.

While Hitachi only mentions “a large UK depot-based parcel carrier,” pictures from the trial show electric vans in Royal Mail livery. The company just managed a milestone of 4,000 electric vehicles in its fleet.

Local energy partners also included the distribution networks of Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks, Hitachi Vantara and Novuna Vehicle Solutions.

The vehicles taking part in Optimise Prime were charged at the depot, at home, and on the road. The project delivered an “end-to-end overview of what the switch to EVs means for the cables and substations that deliver electricity to the community,” writes Hitachi. It also sought to determine what investments the businesses and fleet owners would need to make into infrastructure.

So far, key findings show that electric vehicles can cover the typical range requirements for all three types of fleets, making electrification feasible and achievable across the board.

At the same time, charging infrastructure must be built out. Hitachi gives the example of Tower Hamlets, one of London’s largest boroughs, which alone will need around 3,200 more chargers by 2025 to support Uber and other drivers for hire who live and charge here.

In the longer term, the trials highlight how EV fleets can generate revenue and support network operators, so Hitachi, by offering ‘turn-down’ services where fleets can be charged only when needed and stop charging during peak times. The company names digitalisation to enable such planning and forecasting of charging requirements by fleet and network operators to help manage demand at peak times.

“Our work alongside key partners in this trial has shown that the ambitious EV rollout is possible, and with the use of data, we can overcome the challenges being faced by businesses, such as costs and charging availability,” said John Whybrow, Optimise Prime Business Lead at Hitachi Europe.

Ian Cameron, Director of Customer Service and Innovation at UK Power Networks, added, “We set out to come up with practical solutions to cut the cost of fleets going electric, and that’s exactly what we have done – along with a mass of insights and learnings to help fleet managers. Just one example is how using smart charging can go a long way to lowering your up-front costs. And perhaps the best feedback we’ve had is from a fleet manager in the trial who said they had no idea of all the clever things happening in the background because it happened seamlessly without impacting on operations.”

Hitachi has put together a comprehensive guide based on the experiences of Optimise Prime, which considers business needs, site constraints (both physical and electrical) and the management of changes to business processes.

In addition, the final results and datasets on commercial EV charging and use will be shared on the UK Power Networks’ open data platform in the coming months., (Royal Mail milestone)


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