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Researchers model battery life for UK's first electric forecourt

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We all notice that the battery life of smartphones and laptops decreases with age, but does the same happen if the battery is thousands of times bigger and you’re charging cars rather than phones? To find out, Brunel University London researchers  Colin Axon and Dr Ioana Pisica have joined the UK’s first ‘electric forecourt’ project, an all-electric charging station being built in Essex by energy company GridServe.

The demonstrator site, at Braintree, will feature 24 ultra-fast charging bays, each capable of recharging a typical electric vehicle in less than 30 minutes. The forecourt’s main 5MW battery will support the national grid and serve as a proof-of-concept for what GridServe hopes will the first of a 100 such sites across the UK.

“We’ll be modelling the battery and its performance with respect to the ebb and flow of the numbers of drivers arriving throughout the day,” said Colin Axon, a senior lecturer for Brunel’s Institute of Energy Futures.

“The challenge is to determine how the batteries deteriorate in real-world conditions as this start stop regime is not ideal for preserving the life of a battery. But of course, that’s how it needs to be used – now we need to see how that peaky-ness of demand affects the battery.”

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The work at Brunel will inform the design of the second and subsequent sites. The life of the main storage battery affects the economic viability of the facility, particularly for compact city-centre locations. The 18-month project will see Brunel take on a new researcher to help complete the work.

“And this is the point – the site at Braintree is located on the edge of town, close to a main road. But in towns and cities you haven’t got all this space, and people won’t want to drive to the periphery to charge their cars,” said Dr Axon. “In those circumstances, the modelling we do might inform how small a battery you can use and still maintain the level of service expected by EV drivers.”

For further information on the Institute of Energy Futures, please visit: brunel.ac.uk/research/Institutes/Institute-of-Energy-Futures

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Tim Pilgrim, Media Relations
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