Powering the city of Plymouth with V2G


Plymouth is famously known as Britain’s Ocean City.

It’s a place surrounded by the beauty of nature – and all of us at the City Council want to keep it that way.

That’s why we’ve declared a climate emergency and set the ambitious target of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

And transport will be a massive part of this. We need to make it as easy and inexpensive as possible for people to transition from fossil fuel powered cars to electric vehicles (EVs).

Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology offers a way of doing this – while helping us support the demands of Plymouth’s unique position in the power network.

So, we’re thrilled to be trialling V2G with the six electric vehicles in our Council fleet. Hopefully, it’s the beginning of a long and exciting journey into V2G for our city – and the UK as a whole.

Putting V2G to use all over the city

We’ll start Phase 1 of our V2G trial by equipping our six existing Nissan Leafs with two-way chargers.

This means they’ll be able to take electricity from the grid and put it back in.

So, at times of peak demand, our vehicles will act as batteries for the whole network, generating more revenue for the Council – which is always welcome!

At the moment, our six electric vehicles are primarily used by Council staff to make journeys around the city for meetings and events.

In the future, I’d like to see us extend V2G to the rest of the vehicles in our fleet, which do all manner of jobs: transporting materials for road works, carrying dogs for the dog warden, ferrying around Christmas decorations…the possibilities are endless!

Showcasing V2G to the Plymouth community

The main benefit of taking part in this V2G project is that it demonstrates to the Council, and other organisations in Plymouth, the potential of EVs.

We really want to bring businesses down here and show them what can be done with this innovation. I’m especially passionate about getting other Plymouth-based organisations involved too. We can encourage them to transition to EVs, even if just for the benefit of selling electricity back to the grid.

Of course, the extra income brought about by V2G will also be a big advantage for the Council too.

but more importantly, being part of E-Flex will help create a legacy of grid infrastructure which we can build upon in years to come as we increase the number of EVs in the city.

This trial is helping prove the value of V2G in a local context, which is the first step in transforming Plymouth into the sustainability centre we want it to be.

Power in Plymouth

Plymouth is situated in quite an important place on the power network. Further down the coast is Cornwall, a county with a lot of renewable energy generation.

Renewable energy is very unpredictable – sometimes it’s windy, and you’ll produce lots of power, and sometimes it’s calm and you won’t.

This creates a lot of peaks and troughs in energy supply, which are further exacerbated by the fact that the population of Cornwall is very small. So, when there isn’t enough demand for all the energy that can sometimes be generated, it gets sent round the grid via Plymouth.

This makes it difficult and expensive to install new forms of power generation in our city.

But as V2G transforms cars into our own power storage units, this could be an ingenious way around this problem.

A platform for the future

In my role as Low Carbon City Officer, I spend a lot of time looking at renewable energy. My interest in V2G really stemmed from here.

And I think there is huge potential to combine V2G with renewable energy. I’d also like to see a move to V2G, with solar power in particular.

I believe this would be the next step in creating a future-proof energy system for Plymouth. This is really important to us at the Council: we don’t want to spend a lot of time and money adopting the latest technology, only for it to become obsolete in five years’ time.

That’s why this trial is really exciting. We hope we’ve found a technology that can form the basis of an enduring infrastructure.

The city of V2G

At the moment, the uptake of EVs has not been massive in Plymouth.

This is probably because our city is in a fairly cut-off part of the world. To get to the next big city, Exeter, is quite a journey – and you probably can’t make it there and back on a single charge with a standard EV.

So, the lack of range has been a bit limiting – although this is constantly improving, and unlikely to remain a problem for long!

People here feel they need to own a car, so Plymouth tends to have a lot of traffic in the city centre.

We want to reduce emissions around key choke points in the city, and V2G will help us do this, by encouraging the use of EVs.

And it must be said: there is already a real awareness of the need for renewable energy in Plymouth.

It’s a city that really does care about the environment – and in this sense, it’s a natural home for V2G.