King launches network of charging stations to charge and discharge electrical cars

On Thursday, His Majesty King Willem-Alexander launched a new system of charging stations to both charge ànd discharge electrical cars. This new technique enables the storage of solar energy in an electric car, but also to return the energy to the charging stations later on. The Utrecht Sustainability Institute and researchers of Utrecht University have collaborated on this development since 2012.

When there is an abundance of sunlight, but energy consumption is low, this additional energy can be stored in the car battery. It can be used later on, when there is a deficit of energy, for example during rush hour. “One car can provide the same amount of energy as one house consumes in ten days,’’ says Robin Berg, director of We Drive Solar and alumnus human geography of Utrecht University. The bidirectional charging stations are developed by We Drive Solar and Renault.

Smart solar charging

Since 2012, Utrecht University has participated in this development, which has recently started to accelerate with the project ‘Smart Solar Charging’. The Utrecht Sustainability Institute is front runner of this project. Utrecht University and the University of Applied Sciences Utrecht collaborate in this project with six other companies in five testbeds in the Utrecht region.

Utrecht as pioneer

The city of Utrecht is the first Dutch municipality to choose to implement the new energy and mobility system on a large scale. At least 145 bidirectional charging points will be installed in the city. One of the locations is the Utrecht Science Park. In this testbed, researchers of the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development of Utrecht University and the University of Applied Sciences Utrecht will evaluate the energy profit and human interface of the new system.

USI-director Carolien van Hemel and Renault Zero-energy manager Simon Smit at the bidirectional cars in Lombok, Utrecht.

Smart energy networks

The world premiere in Utrecht is threefold. First, Utrecht now has the first citywide network of bidirectional charging stations on the public road. Second, it is the first deployment of the new ISO 15118-protocol for bidirectional charging, which allows a bidirectional exchange of energy and therefore makes it possible for electric cars to actively take part in smart energy networks in the future. Third, We Drive Solar uses the first bidirectional Renault Zoes in its sharing car network. These three breakthroughs result from the long collaboration between Dutch and French partners.

Sustainable breakthrough

‘’This threefold world introduction illustrates that long and intense collaboration between companies, research institutes and governments can lead to outstanding sustainable breakthroughs,’’ says Carolien van Hemel, director of the Utrecht Sustainability Institute. ‘’Utrecht can be very proud of this result.’’