SWANSEA UNIVERSITY ACTIVE BUILDING CENTRE
SPECIFIC at Swansea University is one of seven UK innovation and knowledge centres, aiming to accelerate the commercialisation of solar-integrated energy systems.
Since its launch in 2018, the Active Building Centre has implemented, demonstrated and evidenced these systems, furthering stakeholder and government collaboration with a goal of changing how buildings are constructed. SPECIFIC and Active Building Centre operate a 100% electric fleet, which is an increasingly integral part of that ecosystem.
For EV integration manager, Nigel Morris, it’s a sideways step after a 30-year career deploying IT systems and data networks for the higher education sector, but one which utilises that expertise. By convincing IT and estates and facilities departments to co-fund a 7kW charging point in 2012, Morris enabled the university’s management to evaluate EV technology first-hand, which he says was vital.
“Sharing experience and viewing perceived problems as new opportunities has been a significant part of the job and outside of work as well,” he comments. “There is still a strong ‘EVs can’t work for me yet’ feeling amongst private and business users alike. Sharing positive experience can help, sharing negative experience and the resolution of the problem can help even more to an audience willing to learn.”
The ramp-up has been quick. A Leaf pool car and two Kangoo Z.E. electric vans were deployed in 2013, and there are now 26 EVs at the university, comprising 70% of the fleet. Five departments are fully electric, others use pool vehicles, and there are 20 charging stations on campus including one rapid charger. Staff are given training and monitored using telematics, with ground rules including a requirement to plug in if the battery is under 80% charge after a journey.
“There is still a strong 'EVs can’t work for me yet' feeling amongst private and business users alike. Sharing positive experience can help...”
Nigel Morris, EV integration manager, Swansea University Active Building Centre
Active Building Centre
Morris says part of the challenge has been understanding the limits: “Acceptance, procurement, availability and infrastructure are probably the main issues. I have worked hard to address those I can and educate around those I cannot resolve. Most barriers can be addressed by a change in mindset, by not looking to replicate usage of ICE vehicles, by accepting the differences and leveraging the benefits.”
Vehicles are well-liked, covering 250,000 miles so far, including business trips all over the UK and as far away as Oslo. Morris claims a £30,000 reduction in fuel costs and 60-tonne CO2 saving, with 10% of that mileage carried out using surplus energy from the Active Buildings. It’s hands-on knowledge he’s been keen to share with others.
Recently shortlisted for the Electric Vehicle Hero category at the 2019 Energy Saving Trust Fleet Hero Awards, the Centre is continuing to grow. Morris says the next phase is looking at opportunities for electrifying electric grounds-keeping machinery, mini excavators and also larger vans and trucks in the near future, all while increasing vehicle integration with the Active Buildings.
“We will integrate building controls and EVs into vehicle booking systems, so Active Buildings know when and where each EV is booked for, how much and when it needs to be charged by and integrating telemetry to forecast state of charge on return, so how much energy the building needs to reserve for vehicles,” he says. “We will also integrate V2B/G [vehicle to building/grid] into that to see if an EV can assist a building or the grid during periods of high carbon intensity and energy cost.”
Nigel Morris claims a £30,000 reduction in fuel costs and 60-tonne CO2 saving, with 10% of that mileage carried out using surplus energy from the Active Buildings.
The ramp-up has been quick. A Leaf
pool car and two Kangoo Z.E. electric
vans were deployed in 2013, and there
are now 26 EVs at the university,
comprising 70% of the fleet.