Helping UPS to Go Large on Smart Electric Charging

Infrastructure and capacity for 170 new electric freight vehicles, creating a cleaner logistics service and helping to improve local air quality in Kentish Town.

Our story

UK Power Networks Services partnered with UPS – a global leader in logistics – to design, implement, and operate a new smart grid electric vehicle system. This innovative charging solution, believed to be the first of its kind in the world, has provided the infrastructure for UPS to increase the electric fleet at their Kentish Town depot. This will create a total capacity for 170 electric freight vehicles – though some of these are yet to be deployed – without the need for an upgraded power supply connection.

UPS is committed to sustainability for customers, the environment, and communities. A key part of their sustainability strategy is growing their electric fleet and at their Kentish Town depot in London, they wanted to enable full fleet electrification while avoiding network reinforcement and ensuring business continuity. What’s more, the solution needed to be economical, sustainable, and designed to adapt to the challenges of the future. They turned to UK Power Networks Services to help bring this vision to life.

Freight electric vehicles can use up to ten times as much power as a typical home while charging, and it’s difficult to charge large numbers of freight vehicles simultaneously due to capacity limitations on the electricity network. This means businesses often turn to expensive and complex network upgrades to meet demand.

Our Energy and Technology Consulting team undertook a detailed feasibility study to investigate alternative options to network reinforcement that would still meet the unique demands of UPS. They recommended a state-of-the-art smart grid system comprised of an active network management system to monitor demand and regulate charging times alongside an energy storage system to maximise available power for the site. This approach would ensure that the depot did not exceed electricity network limits while safeguarding against the operational impact of undercharged vehicles.

The UPS smart grid system was delivered on time and on budget, enabling full electrification of the Kentish Town depot with only half the connection capacity that was originally predicted to be required. It included the installation of new chargers and upgrading of existing charging posts, the development of a smart grid application that communicates with connected vehicles, and the installation of an energy storage system that manages power based on tariff, network loading, and vehicle-specific requirements.

The project was the world’s first application of a smart grid system that incorporated smart changes in a business-as-usual environment for a logistics company and is an example of UK Power Networks Services’ innovative and customer-led approach to solving significant energy challenges.

The Smart Electric Urban Logistics project was deployed in partnership with UPS and Cross River Partnership, with funding from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles through an Innovate UK competition.

Our advice

Explore smart charging – Smart charging has strong potential to optimise capital and operating costs in fleet electrification and unlock additional benefits to organisations, such as improved resilience. The SEUL project was a first-of-its-kind demonstration of a smart charging solution, but the lessons learnt from the project are directly transferable to other sites, supporting electric vehicle adoption in a cost-efficient way.

Understand changing market opportunities – The electric vehicle market is dynamic and fast-growing. Smart-charging costs are reducing dramatically as the technology matures and as more complex charging optimisation becomes available. This is creating new revenue streams and reducing operational costs for electric fleet operators. Smart technology can help organisations to facilitate the rapid electrification of commercial fleets.

Invest in innovation – Building on the SEUL project and current market trends, UK Power Networks Services have extended their collaboration with UPS to a successive innovation project at UPS Camden – the EV Fleet-Centred Local Energy System (EFLES) project. This initiative will see a next-level smart charging solution implemented at the depot. The project will incorporate state of charge and machine learning techniques to optimise the operation of electric vehicle charging within different markets and unlock additional benefits for UPS.

Our metrics

Smart-charging allowed UPS to create a fully electric depot without upgrading network connection capacity, supporting their EV roll-out strategy and sustainability targets.
A cost-benefit assessment indicated that UPS could optimise capital expenditure by installing smart charging and avoiding costly network reinforcements.
Additional benefits included an on-site display to support maintenance, and a deeper understanding of opportunities in relation to operating costs for charging EVs
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UPS electric delivery vehicle
Vehicles charging at UPS depot