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Durham University News

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Durham University energy students to test electric car in 600-mile road trip

(22 October 2012)

Electric car

Two Durham University students are to drive an electric car on a 600-mile round trip to Cardiff and back to demonstrate the possibilities of Smart Grid power and low carbon electricity.   

Smart Grids are advanced electricity networks  that intelligently integrate the requirements of all connected users - generators, consumers and those that do both – to efficiently deliver sustainable, economic and secure low-carbon electricity.

Durham University’s Durham Energy Institute (DEI) is one of the partners in the Customer-Led Network Revolution, the UK’s biggest ever Smart Grid project which is at the forefront of the move towards a low-carbon economy. The £54 million scheme led by Northern Powergrid has been funded by the Low Carbon Networks Fund (LCNF) which encourages electricity distribution network companies to work with partners on innovative projects to help develop Smart Grids and advance the goal of a low carbon economy.

Sergio Roldan and Giannis Sarrigiannis, who are both studying Renewable Energy at DEI, will leave Durham for Cardiff in the car on Tuesday 23rd October and will be attending the 2012 Low Carbon Networks Fund Annual Conference there on Thursday 25 and Friday 26 October. Durham’s electric vehicle is a Mitsubishi I-MiEV, which has a maximum range of 80 miles between charges.

Sergio Roldan said:

“Electric vehicles have come a long way, but we’re trying to investigate what it means to own one and whether or not it would be a good substitute for a conventional, petrol-based car; is the infrastructure good enough yet? What sort of obstacles might we face on an extended excursion like this, such as trying to keep it charged? Although another reason why we’re doing this is because we think it will be fun!”

Giannis Sarrigiannis added:  

“Sergio and I are studying renewable energy and low carbon technologies, so it will be very interesting to see the equipment in action on a substantial journey like this. We know electric cars work well for short trips which, after all, cover most of the journeys we have to make, but after this adventure, we’ll have a better idea of the remaining obstacles. We’re looking forward to the conference too and learning more about the advances other people are making in the same area.”   

DEI’s DONG Energy Professor of Renewable Energy Phil Taylor said:

“This electric car is an integral part of the Smart Grid laboratory project at DEI; all of the power it uses to charge when based here comes from our Smart Grid. And since the Customer-led Network Revolution is supported by the Low Carbon Network Fund, we thought driving it down to the LCNF’s conference in Cardiff would be a good demonstration of the progress we’re making.    

“It’s worth remembering of course that most car journeys are much shorter than a round trip to Cardiff! The Department of Transport has found that the average car journey is only 6 and a half miles, with an average daily use of around 22 miles. Nearly 95% of all our car journeys are under 25 miles, well within the range of the average electric car’s charge of around 80 miles.   

“Electric vehicles like this have already made big advances compared to just a few years ago; they are already big enough, fast enough and with a wide enough range to cover most journeys that an ordinary family would need to make. The charging infrastructures are not only spreading but developing; we now have fast chargers using 40 kilowatts of power which means an electric vehicle can go from flat to fully charged in 20 minutes, whereas before they would need to be charged overnight. If that 20 minutes uses off-peak electricity, costs are pushed even further down.

The Customer-Led Network Revolution is dedicated to making networks fit for electric vehicles as part of the decarbonisation of the electricity network; when we reach a point when the Grid has been decarbonised as much as possible, that’s when we’ll see electric vehicles really coming into their own.”  

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