The FRED Project: Flexibly-Responsive Energy Delivery

Smart Charging: for every driver today

Thanks to our three-year demonstration project we now know that Smart Charging is:

  1. Valuable
    It directly reduces the cost of supplying electricity by over 25%, with significant revenues possible by using Smart Charging to support wider grid stability.
  2. Popular
    Customers are happy to use their cars to support a greener energy system if well incentivised.
  3. Ready
    The technology is there, and business models are evolving to support it.

Demonstrating the power of Smart Charging

FRED has demonstrated the real-world potential of our Virtual Power Plant platform to orchestrate domestic vehicle charging, showing that our software makes it easy for consumers to be flexible with their energy consumption. The £1.4m project was part-funded by BEIS as a winner of its domestic demand-side response competition.

Over the duration of the project we worked with over 250 customers to explore how to reward them for being more flexible in how they charge their car. This had three key dimensions:

  1. People
    Understanding how and why and when people charge their cars at home. Where does the process work well, and where is there room for improvement? How popular is the idea of “smart charging”, and how can we help people understand this new concept?
  2. Business
    The concept of smart charging is in its infancy. Exploring the business models that can make it happen (and hence support grid stability and efficiency) was a major goal of the project.
  3. Technology
    We demonstrated the power of our platform. Our system uses AI to understand customer habits and automatically charge their cars according to their needs, while simultaneously reducing costs and carbon footprint.

The trial showed a typical driver can save £110 per year by smart charging with our platform

Evergreen Smart Power's VPP and demo kit on display in the Manchester office

Our Manchester offices with our VPP demonstration kit. The laptop shows early FRED data.

Trial Findings: Charging Habits

The data coming from the trial has given us unprecedented insight into how (and why) people like to charge their cars. We’ve been working with myenergi, who’s award-winning zappi charger affords its users fine control over their charging, and we’ve observed myriad different charging strategies so far – each understandable in its own way.

Factors affecting someone’s charging strategy include:

  • Whether they have solar panels
  • What energy tariff they are on
  • Whether they have a storage battery at home
  • Whether they have a Tesla with a 300-mile range or a plug-in hybrid with a 25-mile range
  • Whether they commute or are at home during the day
  • How many cars they have

One thing we’ve particularly noticed is that without intelligent control the way people consume energy is very “lumpy”. The day has distinct peaks and troughs in EV energy demand. At some times dozens of cars are all consuming energy at the same time. At others there is hardly any demand. At certain times of the night lots of cars start charging all together simultaneously, which would cause serious grid issues if scaled up.

Evergreen’s Smart Power software can smooth out the rate of charging across thousands of vehicles, helping electric cars make the most of the clean energy generation on the grid.

An eventful year for it

Events of 2019 and 2020 highlight the growing need for wider flexibility in how we use energy. Smart charging of electric cars is going to be a crucial part of the wider system.

On August 9th 2019, two major generators went offline in quick succession, causing widespread power cuts and travel disruption. As the electricity transmission system scrambled to stay balanced, the frequency of grid electricity tumbled to 48.8Hz from its usual 50Hz. This is well outside its operational limit (49.8Hz) and safety limit (49.5Hz). We were able to accurately track this disastrous change in frequency using data reported by domestic appliances. What’s more, we are exploring the feasibility of performing “frequency response” using electric cars. Frequency response is about dynamically changing how quickly car batteries charge in response to signals from the grid. Today frequency response is overwhelmingly provided by large industrial facilities, but FRED is pointing a way to how it could be provided by millions of cars as well.

During the COVID-19 disruption the proportion of renewables on the grid soared as demand stayed low through the spring lockdown. This often led to negative electricity wholesale prices, particularly on sunny Sunday afternoons, meaning in theory domestic consumers could get paid for charging their car. Today you have to be on the ball to take advantage of negative prices, but the system we are showing off in FRED will do it automatically – no faff, just get paid to charge!

Our project partners