Published: Thursday, 23 April 2020

Oxford has taken its next steps towards zero carbon through the Energy Superhub Oxford (ESO).

The world first project demonstrates an integrated approach to decarbonising power, heat and transport across the city.

Oxford City Council has taken delivery of its first electric vehicles (EVs) as part of the project, as well as outlining the next steps for electric vehicle charging infrastructure, transport, and low carbon heating for homes.

Energy Superhub Oxford (ESO) - a collaboration between Oxford City Council and Pivot Power (an EDF Renewables UK company) which also includes Habitat Energy, Invinity Energy Systems (previously redT energy), Kensa Contracting and the University of Oxford - will see the trialling of the world's largest hybrid battery system (50MW) to support the acceleration of Oxford’s electric vehicle charging capacity and fleets, and to power ground-source heat pumps for residential properties.

The £41m Energy Superhub Oxford project, which was announced in April 2019, received £10m from the government’s Prospering from the Energy Revolution Challenge – of which Oxford City Council was awarded £1,615,169 for its role in the project.

Electric fleet vehicles

Oxford City Council’s wholly-owned company, ODS, which operates like a social enterprise, has added six new EVs to its current fleet, with a further 27 (including cars, a street sweeper, excavator, and mix of different sized vans) due to be delivered over the next 3-4 months. It aims to electrify 25% of its 330 fleet by 2023. 

Users of the current vehicles have reacted extremely positively and enjoy driving them which has led to buy in from numerous other ODS staff wishing to be part of the trials for new vehicles coming onto the fleet. Part of ODS’ support to these employees will be to provide home charging facilities where required.

The project is allowing ODS to evaluate its existing fleet and assess its strategy for electrification based on usage, range, emissions, costs and suitable electric replacement.

Try before you buy scheme

The project is also funding a ‘Try before you buy’ scheme for Oxford’s Hackney Carriage drivers with Electric Blue, which aims to accelerate the switch to zero emission capable (ULEV) Hackney Carriage vehicles. The scheme enables drivers to trial one of two models – an all-electric Nissan Dynamo or an LEVC (London Electric Vehicle Company) – for a two or four-week period, with the aim of reducing barriers to adoption.

Two electric LEVC taxis are already operating in Oxford, with two more on the road shortly and several drivers making purchasing enquiries. From 2025 drivers will only be able to get a licence if they have a zero-emission capable cab.

Through the scheme, the City Council will be providing support to the first 10 adopters of zero emission capable (ULEV) Hackney Carriage vehicles that are licensed by the City Council. The city council will waive vehicle licence fees and certificate of compliance test fees incurred up to and ending on 31st March 2024.

The electric taxis will be serviced by ODS, who is an approved authorised service dealer and compliance testing for electric taxis through qualified technicians certified by LEVC.

Electric vehicle charging infrastructure

Pivot Power is installing the world’s most powerful charging network at Blackberry Lane, South Oxford. This network will connect public charging facilities at Redbridge Park & Ride directly to National Grid’s high voltage transmission network. The network will also be able to provide power for local businesses seeking to electrify their fleets, from logistics companies to bus operators.

The Park & Ride EV public Superhub aims to include 20 charge points ranging from rapid (50kW+) to ultra-rapid (150kW+), capable of charging a car in 15-50 minutes, and 30 fast charge points (min 7kW) which can charge a car over a period of hours, for example while Park & Ride users are at work or shopping in the city centre.

Pivot Power is also developing the world’s largest ever hybrid energy storage system, which will share the grid connection with the private wire network. The battery will help balance the grid by enabling greater use of clean, renewable energy sources, and will predict overall demand on the private wire network to support the management of future fleet charging.

Low carbon heating for homes

In Oxford, the largest proportion of emissions comes from buildings (81%), with residential buildings the largest contributor at 29% of Oxford’s total emissions. In response to the recommendations of the Oxford Citizens Assembly on Climate Change, the city council committed to moving towards a zero carbon building system.

The Energy Superhub Oxford project will also enable Oxford residents to benefit from low carbon heating solutions. The project is supporting the installation of innovative low carbon heating solution which combines ‘shoebox’ ground source heat pumps with smart controls and a time of use tariff to optimise heat production for cost and carbon savings.

The first 60 properties will be in Blackbird Leys with work due to start as soon as possible. The project aims to roll out this technology to 300 properties in and around Oxford over the next two years.

Climate emergency

Oxford City Council declared a climate emergency at the start of 2019.  Following this the council was the first UK city to hold a Citizens Assembly on the issue – the Oxford Citizens Assembly on Climate Change.  The Assembly tested members’ ambition for taking forward carbon-reduction measures across five themes, including transport and buildings. In response to the recommendations from the Citizens Assembly, Oxford City Council outlined a programme for tackling the climate emergency.

“Oxford is continuing to show leadership in tackling the climate emergency. With this project we're encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles and the move to zero carbon. Energy Superhub Oxford gives Oxford strengths that no other city currently has: the world’s most powerful charging network and the world’s largest ever hybrid battery, and as a result we can accelerate our electric vehicle charging infrastructure for businesses and residents. It also allows the City Council to provide support on top of what we're already offering to Hackney Carriage taxi drivers looking to move to electric. I am looking forward to seeing this project accelerate Oxford towards zero.”

Councillor Tom Hayes, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford, Oxford City Council

“ODS is delighted to be contributing and supporting this world-first pioneering project. I believe we are uniquely placed to help Oxford City Council and partners with our extensive experience managing and upgrading our own fleet as well as running our motor transport service which looks after the electric LEVCs and other taxis with compliance tests and servicing. It is our company’s work ethos to be intentional about innovation and doing good in our part of the world, so we are looking forward to adding further momentum to the zero emission vision for Oxford.”

Shaun Hatton, Director of Operation, ODS

“Pivot Power’s purpose is to accelerate the UK’s transition to a clean, electric future. The smart power network we are installing in Oxford will deliver flexible, reliable power at scale to fast-track EV adoption. As part of EDF Renewables UK, our aim is to replicate this model throughout the UK, supporting greater renewable generation and delivering power where and when it is needed to enable mass-scale, rapid electric vehicle charging.”

Tim Rose, ESO Programme Manager at Pivot Power

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