Solar Generation Reaches Record Levels in Q2 2017

Madrid Spain

Power consultancy firm EnAppSys reported that we had the most solar generation for the second quarter in a year in 2017, highlighting how renewable power generation is continuing to impact on energy markets across the UK. The amount solar produced represented 19% of our renewable generation, up a staggering 10% from the year before.

The reason? Most of it comes down to the excellent start to the spring and summer that the UK experienced but it also had a lot to do with increased capacity. If you take all renewables together, this period delivered the second highest share of power, behind gas but way ahead of coal fire.

This did however lead to a little more volatility in the market – the sun was shining and we weren’t using as much electricity as normal which meant the system was largely over supplied. While this is problematic at the moment, it is certainly a situation that will be improved by better storage systems able to deliver power at peak times.

Solar in the UK

Over the last ten years, solar capacity in the UK has increased dramatically. Back in 2008, we only had 22 MW of capacity; as of 2016 that had been boosted to 11,562 MW. Much of this came down to the promotion and support for solar through feed in tariffs, something that immediately got businesses and home owners investing in panels. Many large stores like IKEA and Sainsbury’s touted their green credentials by moving to solar while farms began developing in many parts of the UK as land owners began to see the benefits of giving over at least a part of their space to this burgeoning new technology.

Things certainly did stall when the Government decided to slash feed in tariffs in 2016 which many predicted would see the end of solar in the UK. This fortunately turned out not to be entirely true despite other hurdles the industry has had to cope with in recent months including tax changes and the rise in fees for the Microgeneration Certification Schemes (MCS).

For a long while, the UK Government has been accused of trying to kill off the solar industry, despite the fact that it is fast becoming one of the cheapest and most viable sources of renewable energy across the globe. According to the Independent recently:

“Amid ongoing concern about rising energy prices, the industry expressed disbelief that the Treasury is about to impose a swingeing business tax on firms with rooftop solar schemes, which could increase the bill by up to eight times. Domestic installations could also be hit by a VAT increase from five to 20 per cent.”

This despite the fact that many analysts believe solar will be a dominant factor in all future energy systems. There’s no doubt that solar in the UK has had its trials and tribulations over the last few years but the report from EnAppSys provides ample evidence that it is still continuing to move forward.

The Future of Solar Power

Businesses are starting to explore the potential for battery storage and it’s something that will enable sectors like solar thrive over the next decade or so. Companies like Moixa are investing heavily in ‘smart’ storage technology and the Government, on the right side for once, has committed nearly £250 million to help make the UK a market leader.

The Blackpool Gazette reported a few months ago that Network Rail was looking at including solar at the side of tracks to improve its third rail provision. BAE Systems have installed 2 GW of capacity on their sites and smaller companies are also looking to go solar despite the lack of subsidies. New innovations such as road solar are also beginning to gain traction.

It can be tempting to think that solar has stalled in the UK – yes, it may have slowed down without the subsidies but there is plenty of evidence that our solar infrastructure will continue to expand. Running cost is always going to be the governing factor but solar is competing pretty favourably. According to the projections:

  • A solar project commissioned in 2018 would cost between £62 and £84 per MWh.
  • That compares to £60 and £62 per MWh for the cheapest gas project (up to £166 for a more expensive system).
  • By 2030, however, solar is expected to come down while gas will rise considerably to almost £100 per MWh.

The other factor that will determine the future of solar is what is happening in the rest of the world. Take a look at China, for example, and you’ll see a dramatic increase in solar infrastructure, in part driven by the country’s farmers who have a lot of land to spare.

Indeed, they currently have the largest solar farm in the world – situated on the Tibetan Plateau it comprises some 4 million solar panels and covers 30 sq km. It’s perhaps this kind of development, rather than government policies, that will determine the future of solar and other renewable energy in the UK.

Moixa Aims to Install 50,000 Solar Home Batteries by the End of the Decade

solar power rain

After stagnating for a while, the home battery revolution finally seems to be gathering pace again. With the Government now investing hundreds of millions in research and development, designed to transform the UK into a world leader, we should expect great things over the next 5 to 10 years.

Home energy storage firm, Moixa, have secured funding to the tune of £2.5 million that will enable them to install some 50,000 solar home batteries by 2020. Their focus will be on the North West, particularly Liverpool and Manchester (£1 million has been provided by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority).

According to the company’s founder, Simon Daniel:

“We were looking to set up a support centre in mid-England as a lot of our housing stock for social housing is in that area. Manchester has over 1.2 million homes, Liverpool half a million and there’s a lot of new house building going on in that area.”

Who Are Moixa?

For the smart energy revolution to gain traction, it needs advocates and game changers. Moixa was founded back in 2004 and its biggest success was originally the development of a keyboard that could be used with PDA devices. Since then, it has moved into the fast developing world of smart battery technology and it’s beginning to make a splash.

Their system links with solar panels to create what they call a virtual power plant, allowing owners to store spare energy for when they most need it. As we all known, solar only produces power when the sun is shining – it’s something detractors have been quick to hang their coasts on in recent years. The problem is that the majority of us with solar panels on our homes need that electricity during the evening rather than during the day when we’re out at work. Battery systems which can store that energy for later are therefore key to making the most of all that power production.

Using battery power smartly, according to the team at Moixa, will not only help communities manage their electricity better but will also reduce the strain on the national grid. If we’re looking also to reduce our carbon footprint in line with the Paris Accord by 2020, battery technology is going to be a significant part of that.

What are Moixa Planning?

The company aims to offer cost effective solar and storage options to private customers as well as working with local social housing clients.

  • They’ll also be working with new builds and creating relationships with utility companies.
  • Their initial catchment area is going to be mid-England.
  • They’ve built a relationship with the Tokyo Electric Power Company and are running a trial in Japan. TEPC have put half a million into the pot for Moixa.
  • The rest of the funding (£1 million) has come from venture capital and private investors.
  • So far the company has already installed 1,000 units but is confident that the added investment and their growth plan will enable them to reach the 50,000 target by 2020.

There is expected to be a good deal of de-regulation over the next few years as the UK focuses on developing new battery technology. According to Government research, bringing the new tech on board is expected to save home owners between £17bn and £40bn by 2040 if things go as planned. According to Sky News recently, the Government’s Faraday Challenge:

“Includes a £45m competition to establish a centre for battery research which he said would help make the UK a world leader in the design, development and manufacture of electric batteries.”

Not only does this have the potential to revolutionise how we deal with energy and power in the UK but may also help deliver a thriving, new industry that will employ thousands of people. While much of the focus has been on renewable technologies in recent years, there’s no doubt that battery technology is going to play a huge part in that.

Find out more about battery storage on our main site.

Home Energy Storage: The future of co-generation and self-sufficiency

SunPower_PV

There’s no doubt that the recent focus on energy storage has got a lot of people in the renewables industry excited. Storage for technologies like solar and wind has always been something of a Holy Grail. If we can crack it, not only will it make these technologies more viable, it could actually change our whole power infrastructure.

There are two factors that each home or office depends on: The power used to put on the lights and appliances and the heat needed to keep us warm. Many businesses are now starting to offer heating and electricity combinations with solar PV and air source heat pump installations but the wider issue of how we distribute power in the future is increasingly becoming important and a high priority for many governments.

Could your neighbour charge up your car from his solar panels in the future? Will there be local community projects that provide all the energy and power infrastructure you need?

Car company Mitsubishi have put it most succinctly in recent times:

“Around the world, there are already a number of projects aimed at creating Smart Communities where energy is generated mainly from renewable sources and then consumed locally. Such developments make efficient use of solar and wind power, with residents using electric vehicles (EVs) to get around the local area.”

Heading Towards Smart Communities

If we want to look at what the future may well look like, we probably need to head over to Japan where a number of test projects are underway. Imagine a community that is entirely supported by wind and solar. There’s an inherent problem, as well all know, that energy production is intermittent but with new battery storage technology we should be able to ensure that power is delivered at peak times. With the digital smart solutions that are now available we will also have the chance to monitor usage throughout the day and make better decisions about how and when appropriate heating and power can be distributed.

Self-Sufficient Homes

Of course, there’s also the potential to make each home self-sufficient. Again, with viable storage, you’ll be able to create your own heat and electricity to suit your own needs and not worry about being connected to a grid in the future. The problem with this is understanding what happens if your own system breaks down. You may be left waiting for days, even weeks, to get the power back on. For this reason, localised solutions are looking more closely at how we can work together in communities to deliver sustainable energy solutions.

The Masdar Connection

Is it possible to run a whole city on renewable energy?

For that, we can take a look at Masdar in the Abu Dhabi. The project began in 2006 and a million square metres have been built since. The plan is to complete the city by 2025 where it will be home to some 40,000 people living in an environment that is powered entirely by renewable energy. Concentrated solar panels provide heat and warmth for the city’s water system as well as drive cooling systems and traditional panels produce electricity, one plant covering 22 hectares generating 17,000 MWh a year. It’s a massive experiment that could well change the world.

Of course, converting every city into something like Masdar is going to take a long while, perhaps many decades. But it shows us what the possibilities are.

We’re undoubtedly moving towards micro grids for the future and combined heat and power (CHP) technologies are going to be at the heart of this. The challenge is that each area will have its own needs and resources and how they operate is going to vary – there’s really going to be no one size fits all option.

You could be in a community that uses a CHP system like biomass which is close enough to deliver heating as well as electricity. You might have a network of solar panels, on roofs and on farmland to deliver electricity with the help of industrial battery storage but combined with retrofitted air or ground source heat pumps for each property.

Initially, co-generating and achieving self-sufficiency will work well with and suit communities such as universities or industrial estates. There are plenty of drivers for change, though how long it will take is anyone’s guess – we’re still at the early stages of development. Better energy security is one big reason to go down this route as is the urgent need to decarbonise electricity generation and keep control of prices.

Of course, there are plenty of hurdles to overcome, not least the current rigid state of our own national grid and the Government’s reluctance to embrace renewables and CHP and, instead, focus on options such as nuclear and the deeply unpopular fracking trend.

Thirty years from now, however, we may well see a totally different power infrastructure.

E .On claim 44% of Home Owners Want Solar and Battery Storage by 2020

Solar Battery

Research by energy company Eon suggests that over 40% of us would like to see solar panels installed along with a good battery storage system. That will come as a relief to solar energy firms who have been hit in recent years by the reduction in feed in tariffs, something that has impacted heavily on the market.

The survey carried out by Eon involved 2,000 home owners where customers were asked what sort of smart technology would make their lives better. 44% pointed to solar panels as their preferred energy solution and many of those also included battery storage in that mix.

When the company asked those who already had solar panels installed, nearly 3 quarters said that they had made savings on their energy bills and 30% noted that the installation had increased the value of their property. In actual fact, the impact on home prices was one of the key benefits that those without panels saw in having them installed.

Eon has made a fairly aggressive move into the solar market and the recent research is seen as proof that UK homeowners have a real appetite for renewable technologies such as solar. The company’s dedicated website states that customers can expect to make savings of up to £560 a year by creating their own electricity while benefiting from the current feed in tariffs. They’re also offering battery storage solutions along with 25 year warranties on solar panels.

The move into solar installations by Eon marks a change for many large utility companies who are starting to engage with solar energy on a more complete level. In Nottingham, they’ve joined with the local council and Nottingham City Homes (NCA) to provide free panels for 600 homes and this could well become a constant theme rather than the exception.

The key problem that people have with switching to solar is the initial cost. While the return on investment has been clearly demonstrated over recent years, finding the funding to set everything up in the first place is still an issue for many. Eon Solar and Storage launched this year and Head of Commercial Solutions, Gavin Stokes, said:

“We want to be at the heart of a new energy world that will be more decentralised, more interconnected, lower in carbon and offer our customers smarter, sustainable solutions that support their individual energy needs.”

The company is using approved installers in each particular location and this could mark a sea change in how all the bigger utility companies now operate in an increasingly diverse and complicated energy market. Solar installation prices from Eon are starting at £4,495 and if you want to combine that with storage technology then it rises to a minimum of £7,495.

For a typical south-west facing roof, of 30 square metres, with usage all day round, Eon gives the following quote for installation:

  • Your investment £9,850
  • Revenues per year £478
  • Savings on electricity bill £276
  • Feed in Tariff support £202
  • Electricity generation per year 3,050 kWh
  • Self-consumption (37%) 2,049 kWh
  • Export to grid 1,001 kWh
  • Consumption per year 3,100 kWh
  • Electricity sourced from own PV              2,049 kWh
  • Electricity sourced from the grid 1,051 kWh

The company is not providing its services in all areas across the UK but is expanding gradually as well as exploring wider European markets.

Find out about E.On’s solar offer here.

Do I Need a Battery System and What’s the Payback Period?

EV

There’s been much talk in recent times about the benefits of battery storage for renewable systems such as solar. There’s currently a lot of time and investment going into research and development, including by the UK government who are looking to put some £246 million into the technology over the next few years. You can expect big things to happen over the next decade or so.

The Benefits of a Battery System

While home owners have been finding it more affordable than ever to install renewable technology such as solar, the prospect of being able to store that electricity has been a little harder to come by. With new products such as Tesla’s Powerwall coming onto the market, we’re at last beginning to see the real benefits of being able to access our energy 24/7.

  • A battery system essentially allows you to store electricity for when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.
  • That means you can maximise the amount of power you get from your solar panel installation and reduce your reliance on the grid.
  • With the UK Government looking to reduce the solar industry’s reliance on feed in tariffs and subsidies, it makes sense to focus on battery storage to improve the return on investment from installing panels.
  • If you’re living off grid, installing a battery system is vital if you want to have electricity at all times of the day and night.

The Cost of Storage

Of course, the first question most people ask is how much it’s going to cost. The good news is that the price of battery storage is starting to come down as competition increases and new models come onto the market. Costs are going to vary across installers and manufacturers and you need to look at just more than simply the price but issues such as capacity, cycling and reliability as well.

The Tesla Powerwall 2 at 14 kWh, for example, has a recommended retail price of £5,400 and you can expect to pay around £500 for additional hardware. It’s one of the top of the range batteries currently available. Installation costs can vary depending on your system and the location you want the battery placed in. That can mean you’re paying anything from £800 to £2,000 on top of the cost of the battery.

There are other batteries on the market today but you really need to look at a lot more than just the price – aspects such as the kWh you can expect under the warranty as well as the length of that warranty. Different batteries also have different expected shelf lives.

Average Payback

There’s little in the way of strong comparative data for each battery manufacturer and what they say on their sites is not always what you get in reality. How much you use your electricity during the day, for example, will impact on how much you save. An average family that is out during the day and uses most of their energy in the evenings will have different amounts of electricity available compared to someone who uses their home as an office.

Solar Plants details a family who used only 15% of their solar produced power during the day and were able to save in the region of £391 in the first year by installing a storage system. Their Powerwall 1 was installed for a cost of £6,000. Some research suggests that the payback time for a full solar panel and battery system can take as long as 16 years. There are, however, a lot cheaper options – the Powervault has an installation cost of about £3,400. You need also to look at some of the other technological specs.

Cycles, for example, are important: This is the number of charges and discharges you can expect to get out of a battery. For the Powervault, this is expected to be a minimum of 3,000 under the warranty time while the Powerwall stipulates unlimited under warranty. The Powerwall also promises a lot more kWh output under warranty. All this can be very confusing if you’re trying to choose the right battery for your family needs.

Is It Worth the Investment?

Research done in Australia has found payback periods of between 8 and 12 years with ROIs varying between 8 and 13% depending on the system used and the location installed (Australia being a much larger country than the UK, of course). The common consensus seems to be that we are not quite at the point where you are going to quickly break even with a battery system but you should, if you choose wisely, be looking to repay your investment within the warranty time of the make and model.

Undoubtedly, it’s vital that you get the best advice available when considering a battery system and explore all aspects of any potential installation not just the price and warranty. Take a look at our simple guide to all things battery on our main site if you want to find out more.

Can We Take Control of our Own Power Supply?

saule-tech

If you’re sitting wondering just how much more your utility bills are going to cost over the next few years, you’re not alone. With all the major utility companies putting up their prices again, many consumers are once more looking at ways to reduce their bills. That includes considering whether they can, in fact, become energy independent.

The good news is we’re reaching a tipping point with renewable technology, particularly solar, that could mean a whole raft of low carbon changes are on the horizon. With smart meters also coming onto the market, we’re more equipped than ever to control the power we use.

There may be a time, in the not too distant future, where we own our electricity production, whether we’re at home or in the office. We’ll have solar on the rooftop, batteries to store the electricity and perhaps a ground or air source heat pump to keep us warm in the winter.

There are, however, several things that need to happen before this becomes a realistic option for your average home owner.

Battery Storage Needs to Happen

The battle is now on to produce better, more efficient energy storage systems. We have all known for some while that the success of technologies such as solar and wind has been dependent on developing good batteries – cheap, long lasting, cost-effective and easy to install in our homes and businesses. We now seem to be getting there with the new range of lithium-ion batteries that are starting to come onto the market. According to Forbes recently:

“These two factors, increased performance and dramatically lower cost, are what’s gotten us to the point where electric cars can go 200 miles on a single charge and Lithium ion grid storage has become competitive for some applications. What’s more, efficiencies continue to improve, often faster than most observers had predicted.”

Having said that, lithium ion batteries are still relatively expensive and also have a tendency to wear out over time. The constant discharge and recharge will take its toll. That’s why researchers around the world are working hard to develop the new storage technologies which could benefit us in the future. Of course, we need batteries because of the intermittent nature of renewables like solar and without them the future is likely to stall rather than move forward.

It Needs to Be Affordable

Batteries are great – but you need to be able to afford them. The installation of the new Tesla Powerwall 2 is in the region of £6,000 and that doesn’t take into account the installation of solar panels.

Solar power has its peak during the day so you need to be able to store enough electricity to use during the night – the time when most families need a higher percentage of energy. The good news is that, as the technology develops and uptake improves, the cost of installation and buying a battery is going to come down.

Residential Energy Storage

One possible solution to localised power is not to confine it to one home or office but to combine resources across a whole community or street. In essence, you could find your solar panels helping to power your neighbours home or charge their EV when you have excess or taking part in a system that simply gives you the option of when you use the grid or not. The idea of residential energy storage has a lot which makes it attractive and it could well be a better solution than leaving individual homes isolated.

For instance, what happens if your system fails?

That’s the big question concerning taking control of your own power supply. If you have to wait for days, even weeks, for repair work, then you’re going to be left in a precarious position. A system that allows communities, streets or even the local business sector to pool resources is going to be the most efficient solution.

That doesn’t mean individual homes won’t be able to cut themselves off the grid in the future when they have the right batteries installed. It’s not an option, however, that is without risk.

The End of the Big 6?

If we go down the route of managing our own electricity either individually or as a community, what does that mean for utility companies, particularly the big six? These currently control the majority of the electricity supply (90%) in the UK, so what is going to happen as we all look for a more flexible way to get our energy?

The truth is that the utility companies will have to adapt their business models and may have to change beyond recognition. Companies like E.ON are already diversifying into solar panel and battery installations.

What role they all play in the future remains to be seen but don’t expect major changes to happen overnight. It may be that the new properties of the future will have energy independence built in their designs. The next step will be to retrofit older properties. This could just be the next big energy revolution and will undoubtedly change the way we live and how we access vital power.

Cheap, clean fuel bills? There are still a few more hurdles to get over, but it’s certainly a possibility.

Check out our installers of solar panels and battery storage here.

Commercial EV Charge Bays: Who offers the best value?

Cumbria Walney Wind Farm

Over the last five or six years, the number of public charge bays being installed around the UK has increased significantly. According to Zap Map, there are now over 7,000 devices with 13,524 connectors across nearly 5,000 locations. The number is rising practically every day with 466 charge bays added within the last month.

If you’re a company that is switching to hybrid electric vehicles and looking to lower its carbon footprint, one of the first things you’re going to need to consider is which EV charge bay to choose.

The Benefits of EV Charge Bays for Your Business

More and more businesses are starting to install EV charge bays and there a plenty of reasons why it’s a good idea.

  • If you run a fleet of electric cars then making sure your employees can charge up once they get back to the office is vital.
  • It means your cars have access when they most need it and rely less on charge points en route.
  • While garages will have to, by law now, install charge points on their premises, this is still very much a hit and miss affair.
  • Installing an EV charge bay is not as costly as many think and can be tailored depending on the size of your fleet.

Installing chargers isn’t just a good idea of businesses that run fleets of cars, however:

  • If you run a business like a restaurant or bar, putting in a charge bay can encourage customers to come and dine while they boost their batteries.
  • It’s supposed to, according to many small business, increase the time that people stay around and browse your store if you have a charge point. That can help improve turnover, particularly for retail diverse locations like shopping precincts.
  • It demonstrates your green credentials and may encourage people to shop or use your business because you care about the environment too.

Types of EV Charge Bay

There’s a range of different EV charge points and bays on the market nowadays. You might just need a single charge location if you only have one or two electric or hybrid cars. If you have a larger fleet then you may want to install dedicated bays.

One key to EV charging is the speed at which it’s carried out. For standard charging, at 3 kW, you have a system that can take 8 to 12 hours to fully recharge a 24kw battery, something that is often suitable for homeowners and you want to leave your car overnight. Faster charging points of around 7 to 22 kW are the ones you usually find at businesses and , depending on the size, can fully charge a battery in between one and four hours.

Finally, you have rapid or quick charging points delivering 43 to 50 kW which are intended to get your battery to about 80% in as little as 30 minutes.

Cost of Installing an EV Charge Bay

Much, of course, is going to depend on the size of your installation, the power and speed you want and how big your fleet is. A home charger can set you back just a few hundred pounds but an EV charge bay for your business can set you back thousands. For a rapid charging point you should be expecting to pay in the region of £35,000. The good news is that the Government is trying to get businesses to invest in this type of technology and improve the charging infrastructure around the UK.

Getting a Government Grant

The scheme is run by the Workplace Charging Scheme or WCS and provides:

  • A grant of £300 for each socket installed.
  • You don’t need to have an electric vehicle.
  • You can install up to 20 sockets for charging EVs.

According to Zap Map, if you were to install a 7 kW charge point with twin pods you would be eligible for £600 in grants from the WCS scheme. The cost of the charge point after applying the grant would be in the region of £1,500.

Which EV Charge Bay to Choose?

This is a fast growing industry and the number of new companies coming onto the market each month is beginning to rise as you might expect. If you want to find someone in your local area, then check out our installer guide.

Here are just a few companies that have gained a good reputation in EV charging over the last few years:

  • EV Charging Solutions: A commercial and home charging company that has worked with some big companies and organisations including the NHS.
  • Charged EV: A Midlands company which designs, installs and maintains EV charging systems for businesses across the UK.
  • British Gas: It’s not just new companies that provide EV solutions, some older ones have started to diversify. British Gas also offers flexible financing.
  • Pod Point: Carries out a wide range of home, commercial and workplace charging stations with a three year warranty.

Find out more about EV charging on our main site.

Can Solar Panels Run Cars?

The idea that you could, in the future, depend on a car that is totally run by solar obviously sounds great. The migration by many auto manufacturers towards hybrid cars which run on a mix of petrol and electric has been a huge step towards a cleaner future. Equally, the growing number of fully electric vehicles shows that there is still much we can achieve.

But will we soon be able to completely harness the power of the sun and do away with gas guzzling cars altogether?

There’s no doubt that big changes are happening in travel. We’re closer than ever before to the prospect of autonomous, driverless cars and many cities are now looking to reduce at least the number of private cars allowed in their centres. Having cars that are powered by solar panels will also create the flexibility that electric powered vehicles might need to become ever more viable as we head into the future.

The Car Firms Going Solar

Most major car manufacturers have now embraced electric cars and a good few are experimenting with how solar can help.

Audi is working with a company called Alta Devices to produce solar roofs for their cars. While these aren’t intended to completely power a vehicle, they may well provide added juice and help extend the distance that can be travelled before you need to power up again. According to Motortrend.com:

“Audi sees EVs with roofs almost entirely covered in solar cells, using the electricity they generate to power features like air conditioning or seat heaters. One day, the solar roof may even be able to directly charge the battery.”

The key, of course, is going to be how much electricity these solar roofs produce, how consistently and how much direct sunlight they require. How is that efficiency, for instance, going to be effected and monitored on a cloudy day?

Toyota have also been dabbling with solar panels on cars. They’ve been offering an optional mdel for the Prius since 2010, an added extra which was used for local electrics but not for charging the car battery directly. That all changes this year with the Prius Prime and a larger solar array that can actually add to your driving power. These cars are currently available in Japan and Europe but not in the USA where there has been difficulty passing the safety regulations. In the meantime, the solar panels on the Prime will increase efficiency by about 10% without necessarily being the big game changer that many hope for.

The Challenge of Solar on Putting Solar on Cars

While we’re getting somewhere with solar for cars, there’s undoubtedly still a long way to go. Crowdfunded to the tune of nearly a quarter million pounds is the Sion which was introduced to the world last year. The prototype is thought to be able to travel 115km on a single charge and has panels fitted just about everywhere, including the roof, sides and bonnet. The model is expected to hit the market in 2018 and will be able to charge through the sun or via a traditional EV outlet.

Whether it becomes the gamechanger the builders expect is not a given, however.

Many in the industry remain sceptical that we can currently produce a viable commercial solar powered car, at least for the moment. Some experts believe that the size of the roof and area exposed to the sun is too small to generate enough electricity and that solar cells are too inefficient to make this happen anytime in the next ten years or so. Realistically, there needs to be major advances in solar efficiency to make it work. The more powerful the car, the more solar energy you are going to need.

What Does the Solar Future Look Like?

While the journey may be longer than we expect, of course, using solar power for our cars is not just a pipe dream. If we look at all the technology that has developed, particularly that relating to renewable energy, there have been some astounding changes that many would have found difficult to believe only a couple of decades ago. Having said that, it’s still a big leap from producing electricity to providing the high levels of current needed to power even a modest size vehicle.

The good news is there may be no need for solar powered cars at all. While it’s a great idea, it’s not necessarily the best option. Electric cars, we know, are viable and people are willing to buy and drive them. They can be powered by green technology –  by roof top solar powered arrays on homes, offices and in dedicated refuelling posts.

There’s even research and development going at the moment exploring how we make our roads into solar highways. 100 trials across the work are taking place with solar tech that we can safely drive on. That, more than solar panels on cars, may well be the game changer we’ve been looking for.

UK Diesel and Petrol Ban, puts EVs back in the Spotlight

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The UK Government have set out plans to ban the production of diesel and petrol vehicles by 2040, a bid to encourage consumers to switch to electric vehicles, The Environment Secretary Michael Gove has said:

Britain “can’t carry on” with petrol and diesel cars because of the damage that they are doing to the environment. “There is no alternative to embracing new technology”

Tesla, Inc. is at the forefront of technological innovations within the Electric Vehicle (EV) marketplace, the introduction of the Model S was pioneering at the time to demonstrate to the world the viability of EVs, however, this came with a hefty price tag of over £60,000.

Subsequently, auto manufacturers have been playing catch up ever since, but are yet to find a winning recipe. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, in the first seven months of 2017, the number of new EV registrations in the UK sits at 1.6% of the total market.

Despite reasonable growth over the last few years, penetration of EVs has been relatively low, however, policy support and market incentives continue to grow in order to facilitate this transition.

The UK Government offers a plug-in grant to reduce the price you pay for a brand new EV, the grant will pay for 35% of the purchase price or up to a maximum of £4,500.

UK auto manufacturers have also entered the frame, recently introducing a scrappage scheme as an incentive to switch their vehicles to newer more efficient models. Ford, BMW, Mini, Toyota, and Nissan are among those offering savings of up to £4,000 off the price of a new vehicle.

However, for consumers there remains sufficient anxiety towards electric vehicles. According to a recent report by Mckinsey:

“Consumers are excited about EVs today, but concerned about driving range; high costs for battery packs make the cost of offering ICE-equivalent range prohibitive.”

One of the best-selling EVs on the market is the Nissan Leaf. At a starting price of £22,000 even after the £4,500 government grant remains at a price point higher than its comparable conventional vehicle.

Battery packs constitute as one of the obstacles for EVs competing in the market, however as with any new technology the cost will continue to decline. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), the cost of the battery has declined by 65% since 2010 and will continue to do so, making an EV more affordable in the longer term.

Expected to arrive in the UK by 2018, Tesla Model 3 signifies a cost breakthrough. Before the Model 3, Tesla’s Model S was the cheapest in the range starting at £62,000, the Model 3 will come in at around £35,000 and Tesla claims it will offer a range of 220 miles.

The upfront cost and the range of EVs are improving with every new release, advancements in the industry are creating a favourable environment for EVs and in turn eroding consumer concerns.

Initial outlay are always at the forefront of consumer decisions, however, information that is often overlooked is the cost benefits of running an EV in comparison to conventional vehicles. EVs have significantly less moving parts that are expected to reduce maintenance costs, and grid electricity is a much cheaper source of fuel than petrol or diesel. A recent article in the Guardian had this to say:

“The cost of an overnight charge that delivers a typical 100 miles of driving is about £3-£4 depending on your electricity tariff. To go the same distance in a petrol car would typically cost £15”

As the EV market evolves you would hope that information of this kind becomes more widespread in order for consumers to make informed choices on vehicle purchases.

What does the future hold?

The UK government is pushing the agenda to improve vehicle emissions and air quality. While EV penetration is low, policy support and market incentives will help drive the transition in the short to medium term.

Falling costs will rapidly drive the uptake of EVs. The transition will happen because it will make economic sense to do so, the UK government need to ensure the public infrastructure is in place and ready for the mass deployment of EVs.