My Electric Avenue Is Fully Charged!

One of the streets which participated in the project

My Electric Avenue is an innovative yet practical approach to testing new technology. As owners of electric cars increase so too does the need for infrastructure to support these vehicles. To test the efficiency of such networks My Electric Avenue set out to find clusters of at least 10 neighbours in 10 streets from across the UK. Each person was able to drive a 100% electric Nissan Leaf during the test period which lasted for 18 months.

In one area alone, there are more than 20 participants, testing all-electric driving on a daily basis. As sales of electric vehicle (EV) continue to grow, My Electric Avenue is looking to understand if local electricity networks are able to cope with charging a group, or so-called 'cluster', of EVs at busy times. The project is testing a new technology controlling the charging of electric cars if the local electricity grid becomes overloaded.

Perhaps unsurprisingly there were many people around the UK who were delighted about the prospect of driving a Nissan LEAF and participating in this exciting trial. Many of these drivers became 'cluster champions', recruiting nine of their neighbours to also join them. Ten being the minimum number required in most locations to build a cluster and to qualify to take part in the trial.

One such champion was Julie Skevington who drummed up interest in her local community of South Shields encouraging her neighbours to be involved in the trial. As a result of Julie's efforts an incredible total of 23 people now drive Nissan LEAFs in the area as part of the project. The group was so big that they had to be spread over two different feeders from the local electricity substation, so in effect two groups were created alongside one other.

Julie takes up the story: "When I initially spoke to my neighbours there was a real interest in the idea of driving an electric car. Many of us have now had our cars for a year, and the overall view is that everyone is very pleased with electric car ownership. Most people want to continue driving an electric car when the trial finishes."

Paul O'Neill, EV Manager, Nissan Motor GB said: "The all-electric Nissan LEAF is a pioneer in its own right and we're delighted that it is playing such a major role in My Electric Avenue's ground-breaking research.

"Not only is My Electric Avenue helping us to understand the impacts of electric vehicle charging in concentrated areas, but it is also giving us a clear vision of what the streets of the future may look like and that is very exciting." The project was so successful that My Electric Avenue far exceeded its original recruitment targets. Now they are in the phase of collecting data. This includes information related to charging and the effect this has on the local electricity network.

The projects were split into two areas – 'technical' cluster trials and social trials. Both involved 100 volunteers each.

The project – supported by Ofgem - is being delivered by EA Technology. There are other project partners too including Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution Limited (SSEPD) (the host Distribution Network Operator, or DNO), Nissan (EV supplier), Fleetdrive Electric (EV rental programme management), Zero Carbon Futures (charging point network developer) and Northern Powergrid (participating DNO).

By Tracey McBain