UK has green light for world’s largest commercial electric vehicle project 30 November 2018

A three-year, 3,000-vehicle project to test the impact of electric commercial vehicles has been announced today (30 November), after receiving the go-ahead from UK energy regulator Ofgem.

Called Optimise Prime, the project brings together power, technology, fleet and transport companies, which will all share data throughout the trial in a bid to accelerate the take-up of electric commercial vehicles.

The project partners will look at the implications of a large-scale switch to EVs on the electricity infrastructure, including charging from home, depots and public places.

Led by technology business Hitachi Vantara and UK Power Networks, other project partners are Uber, Centrica – as electricity provider but also as an operator of electric vehicles for its British Gas fleet – and an unnamed depot-based parcel carrier. The trial is also supported by energy supplier SSE and vehicle leasing firm Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions.

The project will launch in early 2019 with a design and build phase, and the first Optimise Prime vehicles will be on the road during the second half of next year in London and the South East.

Optimise Prime is funded by £16.6m from Ofgem, along with a further £18m from the project partners.

“There are many companies and initiatives trying to crack how we can practically roll out electric vehicles at the required pace and scale – both in the UK and overseas – but too often we are working in silos,” says Nicole Thompson, Hitachi’s director for social innovation and co-creation partnerships.

“This is not only cost-inefficient, but it ultimately slows down the transition to EVs. We don’t have time to make errors or guesstimate. Hitachi is committed to helping organisations across different sectors and industries work together and provide openly shared data and learning to enable a faster transition to electric and meet climate change objectives.”

Ian Cameron, head of innovation for UK Power Networks, says: “For electric vehicles it’s no longer a case of the tipping point, but the jumping point, because when large-scale commercial electric vehicle operators decide to switch from petrol or diesel to electric the impact will be instant.

“There’s incredible potential to improve the air quality of our towns and cities, and we want to help that happen at the lowest possible cost to our customers.”

Uber’s Fred Jones, head of new mobility for UK and Ireland, says: “At Uber we have set an ambitious goal to be all electric in London in 2025. As part of our Clean Air Plan we expect to raise more than £200m, every penny of which will go towards helping thousands of licensed drivers to upgrade into 100% electric vehicles. To achieve this bold vision, we’re working with industry leaders, including the Optimise Prime consortium, on ways to improve charging infrastructure to encourage and better support future electric uptake.”

Hitachi will design, build and operate the project’s Internet of Things platform, called Lumada, and will oversee delivery across all project workstreams, supported by Hitachi Europe.

Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions will advise on the applicability of solutions to the wider commercial vehicle market.

Laura Cork

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