A ground breaking real-world trial of wireless electric vans goes live in Edinburgh today

The £1.6 million project is led by Flexible Power Systems, in partnership with The City of Edinburgh Council and Heriot-Watt University.

Initially, four modified Vauxhall vans will take to the streets, fitted with a slim charging pad on the underside. To charge, they are simply parked above electric pads, and they’re topped up in under an hour with no need to plug in.

“Wireless changing could offer fleets efficiencies in terms of number of chargers needed, time required for charging and space in depots, all barriers to electrification. In future, driverless vans could even be used, as no one is needed to plug in charging cables,” said FPS managing director Michael Ayres.

Funding for the trial is being provided by the UK Government’s Office for Low-Emission Vehicles through its innovation agency Innovate UK.

Autonomous vehicles

Heriot-Watt University has been working with industry representatives from LogisticsUK and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders to ensure its research in this project has real world application and relevance.

Professor Phil Greening is Deputy Director of the Centre for Sustainable Road Freight, a joint initiative between Heriot-Watt University and Cambridge University.

Professor Greening says wireless charging is a cornerstone technology and an essential requirement if commercial vehicles are to transport goods autonomously in the future.

He explains: “There are enormous challenges for us to overcome if we are to see autonomous commercial vehicles on our roads. Our role for around the past three years, has been to explore future scenarios assisted by advanced computer modelling in order to determine the benefits of wireless charging and find solutions to these challenges.

“While shared infrastructure and collaboration have great potential to reduce the costs of decarbonising last-mile logistics, there are complex scheduling and commercial trade-offs to be considered.

“Our research will help accelerate the decarbonisation of last mile deliveries and crucially reduce the cost of those operations.”

Net zero

City of Edinburgh Councillor Karen Doran, Transport and Environment Vice Convener, said: “We’re really excited to be part of this trial. Our commitment to supporting cleaner, more sustainable transport in the capital, both as part of our City Mobility Plan and our ambition to become carbon neutral by 2030, starts with our own fleet, and advances such as this will help us achieve our goals.
“By working with Flexible Power Systems and Heriot-Watt University we’ll be able to explore how new technology can support the introduction of more electric vehicles to our fleet, as well as in other, commercial organisations. It’s these kinds of innovations, along with our own plans for electric vehicle charging across the city, that will be crucial to our move to zero emission transport.”

Council fleet manager Scott Millar said: “We already use electric vehicles across our fleet and providing charging infrastructure like shared hubs is an important next step to ensure both the council and the community feel confident about the cost, reliability and range of electric vehicles. “All councils are looking at ways to reduce transport emissions in cities, and we’re excited to take a leadership role here as a successful project in Edinburgh could show them the way forward.”

James Derby, Chief Engineer, Electrical Systems at FPS said: ‘There has to be electrification of vehicles in future, we can’t go on burning fossil fuels. Wireless is now part of the mix of advanced charging technologies we can offer fleets adopting EVs’

The trial runs to April next year.

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