Back in April 2014, EA Technology, in collaboration with Nissan, Scottish and Southern Energy, FleetDrive Electric, Zero Carbon Futures, Northern Powergrid and the Low Carbon Network Fund, launched a new project in the UK called My Electric Avenue. Designed to investigate what the real social, environmental and infrastructure impacts of an electrified transportation future, the project also trailed a new smart grid charging station which enabled utility companies to control and reduce electric car charging during peak hours, reducing the load on the utility grid and saving electric car owners money too.
In order to replicate the required high-density clusters of electric car owners along individual streets, subdivisions and neighbourhoods however, My Electric Avenue offered some pretty amazing £100-per month for 18-months lease deals to get bums in seats of an electric LEAF, aiming to set up ten clusters of ten electric-car driving neighbours each.
The catch? Those interested in the program had to encourage their neighbours to also take part too. Without enough interested neighbours, those who had signed up couldn’t take part.
Yet less than a year on, the project is being hailed as a complete success by Nissan and the other My Electric Avenue partners, with more than 200 participants now taking part across the UK.
One area in South Shields — about just seven and a half miles from where Nissan makes its European LEAF electric car — exceeded all other project goals, with a total of 23 neighbours all signed up and driving Nissan LEAFs. With so many electric cars in a tiny area — believed to be the largest in the UK to date — the South Shields group actually consists of two individual clusters, connected together across two different feeders from the local electricity substation.
“When I initially spoke to my neighbours there was a del interest in the idea of driving an electric car,” said Julie Skevington, the “Cluster Champion” responsible for getting twenty-two of her neighbours to sign up to the scheme. “Many of us have now had our cars for a year, and the overall view is that everyone is very pleased with electric car ownership. Most people want to continue to drive an electric car when the trail finishes.”
And that’s the beauty of the My Electric Avenue project. In addition to providing utility companies and charging providers with valuable data to help them plan for wider electric car adoption moving forward, it has highlighted the simple fact that as long as the price is right, people will happily give electric cars a try.
While advocates might be excited about the new 200+ electric car drivers the UK now has thanks to the scheme, partner companies taking part are finding that the early data collected from the participants is proving invaluable.
Although all 200 participants are part of the same My Electric Avenue project, the trail itself puts participants into one of two different categories: ‘social clusters,’ where the sociological and environmental benefits of driving an electric car are studied; and ‘technical clusters,’ where the impact on the local utility grid is examined and EA Technology’s smart grid charging station is being tested.
We won’t find out the final results of the study for several more months, but given the positive impact thus far, we’re hoping other automakers will consider offering similar ‘group-lease’ discounts to encourage more people to switch to a cleaner transportation solution for their family.
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