Your Homes Newcastle (YHN), which manages more than 28,000 properties, is to take part innovative trials that could shape the future of electric car use in the UK.
The Arms Length Management Organisation, set up by Newcastle City Council in 2004, has signed up to the My Electric Avenue project, designed to help determine the demand on the electricity network when electric cars are commonplace.
A total 13 employees - selected at random from an initial list of 50 keen to get involved - will take private leases of Nissan Leaf vehicles.
With six charge points now in daily use at YHN’s Benton Park Road offices - close to the UK’s largest residential cluster in South Shields - feedback can be gathered that could help shape the country’s approach to electric car use and infrastructure in the future.
My Electric Avenue is being led by EA Technology, an innovation technology provider, and hosted by Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution, with the support of several partners including North East based consultancy Zero Carbon Futures.
The overall purpose of the initiative is to monitor the impact on the national grid of charging multiple electric vehicles at any one time.
In the North East the trials have attracted significant demand with 55 people across four residential clusters having also signed up to take part.
David Henry, environmental sustainability coordinator at YHN, first heard about the scheme last summer and was keen to get involved.
He publicised the opportunity through the organisation’s intranet and was overwhelmed by the response.
He said: “There were lots of people keen to get involved with the trials so when we heard that there was an opportunity to form a business cluster, and test the impact of multiple vehicle charging from our own head office, it was the opportunity we’d been waiting for.”
Henry is also investigating the introduction of electric vehicles to the organisation’s fleet on a more general basis.
Acting as business cluster ‘champion’ for the duration of the trial, and will be responsible for feeding back data, which will inform a technical solution that would remove the need for significant investment in the local network to cope with the increased demand for electricity.
Kevin Scott, property services manager at YHN, lives in rural Northumberland and saw My Electric Avenue as an ideal opportunity to assess the fuel savings that could be made by swapping his diesel vehicle for the Leaf.
“The subsidised lease scheme means that I can expect to be saving around £150 per month in fuel costs,” he said.
“Although my daily commute is fairly significant at around 70 miles, my steady journey into work coupled with the opportunity to charge when needed at home and at work makes the trial, on the face of it, a very viable proposition.
“The trial will be as much an experiment for myself as it is for the organisations involved. I’ll be interested to see how the next 18 months goes and how the EV landscape changes during that time as vehicles become more affordable and accessible.”
Zero Carbon Futures was set up to deliver a range of local, national and international programmes set to advance North East England as a European leader in the production of low carbon vehicles.
Technical advisor at the organisation, Lois Warne, said: “The trials offer a unique opportunity for communities and businesses to test drive an EV and to experience the many benefits that they provide.
“It is essential that we are prepared for when electric cars become commonplace in years to come.
“The technology that is being trialled through the project will monitor and control the electricity demand from charging electric cars and, in the long-term, will save expensive and potentially disruptive work being carried out to upgrade the electricity network.”
For further information about My Electric Avenue visit the website www.myelectricavenue.info .