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Transport is widely regarded as the next major challenge in the UK’s decarbonisation journey. Recent developments in electric vehicles (EVs) worldwide mean that this technology is optimally placed to help lower emissions from road transport. Thanks to the recent acquisition of an electric vehicle (EV), researchers at Ulster University are exploring the potential of this new technology.

The UK Government has set ambitions to ensure that almost every car and van in the UK is a zero-emission vehicle by 2050, and to make the UK a world leader in EV and battery technologies.

Due to their high energy capacity, mass deployment of EVs will have significant impact on power networks. This impact will dictate the design of the electric vehicle interface and charging devices and the way future power networks will be designed and controlled.

Ulster University’s SPIRE 2 project has acquired an EV to support essential research that will aim to tackle the identified challenges and better inform policymakers and stakeholders and give direction to further research on the impact of electric vehicles on existing power distribution networks.

Professor Neil Hewitt, Professor of Energy and Director of Centre for Sustainable Technologies at Ulster University said:

“The electric car revolution is tied into a whole new way of consuming energy and Ulster University, through the SPIRE 2 project, is conducting world leading research that will change the way individuals, and businesses, use energy in the future.

“Our team of researchers will be analysing vehicle-to-grid technology which enables energy stored in electric vehicles to be fed back into the electricity network to help supply energy at times of peak demand.

“This innovative research project will highlight the effects of EV uptake on the electricity network and recommend how to avoid network capacity constraints obstructing the roll-out of EVs.”

Malcolm Robinson, Transmission Investment Engineer, NIE Networks added:

“The renewable future of Northern Ireland hinges on innovation and good partnership working across various sectors. The SPIRE 2 project is a fundamental example of the important research that is being undertaken to help us better understand the impact an increase in the electrification of transport would have on the electricity network.

“The role of NIE Networks is to facilitate the transition of how the electricity network operates and decarbonisation of energy production, while supporting the electrification of transport. SPIRE 2 will help inform our strategy for how we best achieve a net zero carbon future and determine how the electricity network infrastructure needs to evolve all while achieving the best outcome for consumers.”

Ulster University’s SPIRE 2 project is addressing how consumer-owned energy storage can resolve the problem of the variability of renewable energy (RE) output. Researchers are exploring how homes and businesses can store renewable energy effectively, allowing very high levels of RE to be integrated into power grids globally, at the same time as maximising the benefits to consumers.

The SPIRE 2 project has received funding of €6.7 million from the EU’s INTERREG VA programme, which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).

Match-funding for the project has been provided by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in Ireland and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland.