Zenobē says industry should challenge soaring standing charges

Leading electrification specialist, Zenobē, has urged the bus and coach industry to push back against Ofgem’s decision to allow suppliers to ramp up standing charges by as much as 1,000%.

Steven Meersman – one of company’s founder directors – told B&CB that some operators have faced the standing charge for power supply to go from £700 a year to £70,000: “It should be like a congestion charge for the grid,” he said. “I believe the utilities felt they were losing out. Even if you’re using the power at night when it is in surplus, these charges apply. It’s contradictory.”

Steven Meersman, Zenobe

Steven said that the industry should begin campaigning against soaring standing charges: “Bus and coach companies could have a material influence on this policy. Ofgem has even provided exemption for smelters, so bus companies should be considered.”

Fresh from raising £410m, Zenobē can now fund a further 2,000 buses with its leasing model which takes away the capital sting and risk, especially from the battery cost. Zenobē not only provides a turnkey service for vehicles, batteries and infrastructure in the bus and coach markets, but is increasingly seeing demand from the logistics sector, said Steven.

Steven said that Zenobē has concentrated on its core expertise in battery-electric vehicles and does not invested in hydrogen fuel cell: “It can’t currently achieve the ‘wind to wheel’ efficiency of battery electric,” he said. The company is also mindful of emerging battery technologies which potentially offer much higher energy density than existing lithium-ion batteries: “If the cost and advantages of a new battery technology pan out, operators may see opportunity for mid-life battery replacement, perhaps fitting a smaller battery for the same range so the vehicle has less battery to drag around. We are technology neutral.”

Zenobē has created its own ‘markets’ for used batteries; when they no longer hold a full charge, they can be upcycled for portable power on on-site static power applications, via its Powerskid units which store 130kWh. Powerskids are typically used for construction sites and temporary charging capacity but have also found a use on film sets and music festivals.

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“Operators do worry about battery longevity but we take that risk away from them, providing battery as a service. We’ve had 60-plus projects for second-life batteries. Including charging at Glastonbury, which has reduced the site’s generator use,” said Steven. Traction batteries are such a recent development with a long lifespan that they are only just starting to start a second life, so Zenobē has had to buy new for its grid-scale storage and grid-balancing installations. Its Capenhurst 100MWh project in Cheshire – the biggest in Europe – is a case in point.

Within the bus, coach and haulage sectors, Steven said there is scope for ‘socialising’ charging installations, and in the example of the bus industry, sharing chargers during the day, when they are not being used.

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