A demonstration of the world’s first electric vehicle charger based on hydrogen fuel-cell technology could hold the key to charging concerns facing the UK taxi industry.
The breakthrough by AFC Energy, a UK-based energy technology company, could not only enable 100% clean electricity for future EV charging, but also enable a faster developed network to meet the needs of the industry and other EV drivers. The demonstration of AFC Energy’s CH2ARGE system took place at Dunsfold Aerodrome, home to the BBC Top Gear test track, and saw a BMW i8 as the first ever car to be recharged with power generated by a hydrogen fuel cell. The innovation takes place after 10 years of fuel cell research development at the AFC Energy laboratories. The EV taxi market is set to grow rapidly in the coming years as city’s across the UK look to move away from more traditional fuels. The UK government has stated that 50% of all new car sales will be EVs by 2030 which will see nine million EVs on the road. By 2040, 100% of new car sales are planned to be EVs leading to the entirety of the UK’s fleet of 36 million cars becoming EVs.
In London alone more than 1,000 electric LEVC TX taxis are currently licensed and demand is set to increase following the regulators rapid demand for the whole fleet to become zero emission capable in the near future. One of the big stumbling blocks holding drivers back from making the immediate change is however the poor charging infrastructure currently available.
To recharge the entire fleet of EVs, the UK National Grid estimates show this will require generation to be increased by 8GW, while calculations by AFC Energy show that if one in 10 of the EVs is being recharged simultaneously the UK’s future fleet of 36 million cars would have a peak demand surge of 25.7 GW based on an average EV battery of 57 kWh. This maximum peak demand equates to approximately half the UK current generational requirement and is the equivalent of 7.9 new nuclear power stations or 17,100 wind turbines. Popular venues such as sports centres, stadiums and supermarkets will also have to scale up EV recharging solutions; a scenario where 25% of vehicles are EVs and half plug in to charge while at the venue would require 11.5MW of electricity generation. Extensive investment in new power stations and upgrade of the distribution network would be required unless these demands are met through localised power generation. AFC Energy has worked to provide a solution to the potential future challenges caused by EV charging and its CH2ARGE system could potentially deliver locally-generated electricity through thousands of installations that generate 100% clean electricity. In contrast, the provision of power through central generation would require massive investment in new generating capacity and a re-architecting of the distribution network. “By 2030, it is estimated that there could be nine million electric vehicles on the roads of Britain, up from 90,000 today,” said Adam Bond, Chief Executive Officer at AFC Energy. “For this transition, we need charging stations to be embedded throughout the country, as well as seeking innovative solutions to overcome the severe limitations of centrally generated electricity. By developing and demonstrating the effectiveness of our hydrogen fuel cell in the application of EV charging, AFC Energy has shown it is ready to lead the way not only in solving the challenges of increased demand for electricity, but also doing so in a truly zero emissions approach.” CH2ARGE includes AFC Energy’s small-scale fuel cell connected to an inverter similar to those used by Toyota at their Electric Vehicle research centre. The inverter transfers energy created by the fuel cell to a charger. The system is supported by a 48V battery pack to assist with peak power demands. The solution can also be tailored for both on and off grid applications and scale up as required.