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WPD confirms go-ahead for EV charging gamechanger in UK towns and cities

  • Taunton in Somerset identified for DC Share trial
  • £5.6m project aims to deliver town-centre EV rapid charging without need to upscale electricity infrastructure
  • Technology could deliver £162m in network savings if rolled out across UK

Electric car with plug in charger

Today, in partnership with Ricardo Energy and Environment, we have confirmed the site for our innovative DC Share project, trialling new technology which could help deliver an estimated 217,000 Electric Vehicle (EV) chargers in urban spaces across our licence area by 2023. The scheme, which will be trialled in Taunton, Somerset, aims to get over 3 million EVs moving across the Midlands, South Wales and South West by 2023.

If expanded across other UK electricity networks, DC Share’s technology could save customers an estimated £162 million in network reinforcement costs by 2050. These savings will be made by allowing network providers to make smarter use of the existing electricity network, by harnessing spare capacity within existing substations, rather than investing millions in new infrastructure.

The DC Share project, which has received over £4.7 million in funding through Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition, will test a new method of pooling spare network capacity from several local substations. This will enable low carbon infrastructure, such as rapid EV chargers or battery energy storage, to be quickly connected without the need for expensive network reinforcement.

DC Share’s approach will be particularly useful in dense urban communities, where the adoption of low carbon technologies can be slowed by constraints and a lack of available space for building a larger network of substations.

DC (direct current) is a constant electrical electric charge similar to the output of a battery and is used by nearly all low carbon technologies. Using DC technology rather than the more commonly used AC (alternating current) means that the use of electricity is more efficient as it does not have to go through the conversion process, which results in a loss of energy. DC charge also means that there is the flexibility to move power to where there is a high load, something which is more difficult to achieve with AC.

The trial in Taunton, Somerset, which will be led by project partner Ricardo, will use innovative power electronic equipment to link four local substations across the town centre, sharing their unused capacity to power 15 rapid EV chargers, including five 100kW rapid chargers intended to recharge the average electric vehicle in around 30 minutes. Taunton was selected due to site suitability and the proactive engagement of the council.

Following today’s site confirmation, work will now begin preparing the local plans for the EV rapid charge stations in central Taunton. With building work scheduled throughout 2021, the rapid EV chargers are due to be available for public use by the Spring of 2022.

We will enable users of the rapid EV chargers to enjoy 12 months of free charging to further encourage public uptake of low carbon vehicles and to gather valuable feedback aiding future implementation of the technology. Following the conclusion of the DC Share project, the intention is for the EV rapid chargers to be passed onto a local service provider so that visitors and residents can continue to reap the benefits of this increasingly essential low carbon infrastructure.

The long-term plan is for the DC Share technology to be rolled out across our network to enable rapid installation of EV rapid chargers in other towns and cities, especially those that are experiencing constrained network infrastructures. With a high proportion of our 7.9 million customers living in urban areas, this technology will ensure that network constraints will not limit or delay our customers’ access to ultra-low emission transport, renewable generation, and local energy storage.

By reducing the need for costly network reinforcement, the DC Share approach will also help keep customer bills down, with initial savings from implementing the technology rising from £50 million in 2030 to an estimated £162 million a year in 2050, across the UK.

Ricky Duke, WPD Innovation & Low Carbon Network Engineer commented: “Today’s confirmation of Taunton as the DC Share project site is an important step to securing the massive savings and decarbonisation benefits that DC meshing technology could bring to the UK.

“As we look beyond COVID-19 towards the UK’s goal of Net Zero by 2050, innovative, low carbon technologies will be at the heart of the UK’s green recovery. Insights from DC Share will have a key role in helping us to build a stronger and cleaner UK economy.

“DC Share is a win-win: this technology will allow us to rapidly decarbonise transport by making smarter use of existing infrastructure. That means less carbon emissions, while reducing the need for expensive infrastructure and network reinforcements in constrained urban communities.”

Michael Feasey, the overall Project Manager from Ricardo said: “This project takes UK networks another step forward in developing flexible networks and supporting the mass adoption of electric vehicles. By using a DC equalization network to support the existing infrastructure and to facilitate large demand from rapid chargers, we are demonstrating that there are alternatives to traditional reinforcement. We are delighted to be using the combined expertise from all Project Partners to help the UK transition to a low carbon economy.”

Local constituency MP and Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said, “It is wonderful news that Taunton is leading the way in decarbonising road transport, helping people to make the switch to EVs. As the local MP I’ve worked hard with Western Power Distribution to get this project secured and am absolutely delighted that Taunton has been selected. This will chime really well with our garden town status too, an initiative I was pleased to be part of.”

Councillor Peter Pilkington, the Lead Member for Climate Change at Somerset West and Taunton council commented, “We’re delighted to host this ground-breaking low carbon energy trial, bringing essential EV charging infrastructure to the local residents of Taunton.

“This complements Somerset West and Taunton initiatives across the wider district such as our rural electric vehicle charging point fund for parish and town councils. Encouraging and enabling the use of electric vehicles is an important part of working towards making the council and the area as a whole carbon neutral by 2030.”

For more information on the project, see our DC Share project page and the project website

Tagged under
  • Innovation
  • DSO/Smart Networks