Two North East Organisations Gear up to Support National Electric Vehicle Project

Leading car manufacturers Nissan, Renault, BMW and Volkswagen have called on the expertise of two North East organisations to support a major European project to drive forward the EV revolution.

Newcastle University and Zero Carbon Futures have been commissioned to deliver the Rapid Charge Network project, launched this month, which will see the establishment of rapid chargers for electric vehicles running throughout the UK and Ireland.

When complete, a total of 74 rapid chargers will have been installed, covering more than 1,100kms of major trunk routes and providing EV-friendly links to five seaports and five international airports. The network will build on what has already been achieved in North East England which was the UK’s first regional network of charge points.

Funding for the Rapid Charge Network (RCN) project is being led by Nissan – maker of the world’s best-selling electric vehicle, the Nissan LEAF – is co?financed by the European Union through the TEN-T programme, with further contributions from fellow consortium members Renault, BMW and Volkswagen and ESB. The project will be supported by Newcastle University and Zero Carbon Futures who have a wealth of experience on similar projects.

Dr Colin Herron, Managing Director of Zero Carbon Futures, said: “This is a significant project to the UK, which will support the development of a national network of rapid charge points giving drivers additional confidence that electric vehicles are a viable option. It is testament to the expertise that has been developed in this area by both Newcastle University and Zero Carbon Futures that we have been chosen as partners by the vehicle manufacturers involved.”

Zero Carbon Futures will be using their EV charging point knowledge to oversee the installation of the UK charge points. Their expertise has been gained by the development of the region’s Charge Your Car network, which has installed over 700 public charge points and 12 rapid charge points into the North East.

Newcastle University research team will be responsible for the subsequent study of the impact of the project on the driver population. The team will be analysing the driving data and charging patterns to inform future transport infrastructure and best practice for the rest of Europe. Using data loggers, the Newcastle University team will look at how often people re-charge, how far they travel between charging points, total distance travelled and other indicators of driver behaviour and efficiency.

“This project could be the game changer that encourages more manufacturers to develop EVs and more of us to make the switch to electric cars,” explains Phil Blythe, Professor of Transport at Newcastle University and academic lead on the project.

“This will take drivers beyond the urban boundaries, addressing one of the main barriers to electric transport which is distance. With rapid charging networks, EVs become a serious contender as a future mode of transport and our research will inform how best these networks can be implemented across Europe.”

This is not the first time the two organisations have worked closely together on projects to investigate the impact of electric vehicles. Over the last three years, both organisations have been involved in the Switch-EV project which placed 44 EV’s on the road to understand both the impact of electric vehicles and their charging patterns. The vehicles involved in the trial travelled a total of 403,000 miles – equivalent to driving around the world 16 times – and had been charged 19,900 times providing the biggest study of electric vehicle use in Europe.

The project is also being supported by ESB in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

About the Rapid Charge Network

Running on two priority road axes as defined by the European Union Ten-T programme, the network will link major ports and cities including Stranraer, Liverpool, Holyhead, Birmingham, Felixstowe, Leeds and Kingston upon Hull with connections to existing networks in Ireland and Northern Ireland via Dublin and Belfast. Zero Carbon Futures will oversee the installation of the 70 UK-based charge points while ESB will oversee the 4 charge point installations in Ireland and Northern Ireland via Dublin and Belfast.

Significantly, the rapid chargers being deployed will be amongst the first state-of-the-art multi-standard units in public operation in Europe. This will ensure that every EV owner in the country can undertake long journeys secure in the knowledge that they will never be far from a rapid charger no matter what brand of car they drive. The units are compatible with cars using 44kW DC CCS, 44 kW DC Chademo or 43 kW AC systems. Installation of the rapid chargers is due to be completed by the end of 2014.

By providing a network of chargers for EV drivers, the RCN project is designed to encourage further take up of electric vehicles in a bid to further decarbonize road transport.

The network will also be used to gather strategic information from users, including customer charging behaviour and changes in mobility patterns, to help plan the roll-out future rapid charging infrastructure in member states across Europe.

The RCN project has been chosen as one of the Ten-T priority projects co-financed by the European Union. Projects are chosen according to the added value they offer to the European community and their contribution to the sustainable development of transport systems. They include rail, mixed rail-road, road and inland waterway projects, as well as a ‘motorways of the sea’ scheme.

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The Rapid Charge Network is supported by major industry partners, including: