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UK’s EV Charging Project Plugs into Microsoft Cloud

Martin Kochman Martin Kochman
Vice President, Customers and Industries, Hitachi Digital Services

January 25, 2022

By 2030, you will no longer be able to buy a new petrol or diesel car in the UK. While it has been years since electric vehicles (EVs) became widely and commercially available in the UK, up-front costs and limited EV charging infrastructure continue to hold back many of the UK’s biggest commercial vehicle operators from making the switch to EVs.

Because efforts to meet environmental deadlines are no longer about identifying alternatives – as recent events such as COP26 have shown, there’s a wealth of innovation coming from the technology and automotive sectors. The challenge of achieving widespread EV rollout makes it clear that more must be done to ensure the solutions we have can be used practically and at scale.

With the help of data, technology, and some likeminded partners, we’re proudly working towards this goal. By creating a detailed picture of the demands of running electric fleets, we’re aiming to demonstrate exactly what’s needed to make EVs the practical choice and spur change in a big way.

Delivering the world’s largest commercial EV trial

Optimise Prime, launched in January 2019, brings together leading power, technology, fleet, and transport companies to test and implement the best approaches to the EV rollout for commercial enterprises.

The four-year project, led by Hitachi and UK Power Networks, is setting out to develop practical ways of overcoming the challenges that are currently holding back many of the country’s biggest commercial vehicle operators from making the switch to EVs. The project is part-funded by UK energy regulator Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition to foster cross-industry collaboration.

It uses large, real-time datasets and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to create a detailed picture of the demands of electric fleets and private hire vehicles. This will make it possible to develop solutions that cut the cost of owning and running electric vehicles, such as the ability to charge EVs outside the electricity network’s peak times ahead of the EU’s ban on petrol, diesel, and hybrid vehicles by 2035.

No one company can do this alone

We’re always looking for more organisations to join us in this effort and are pleased to announce that we are collaborating with Microsoft to run Optimise Prime on Microsoft Azure cloud. Azure helps to ensure continued expansion of the project and improves the resiliency and readability of the platform with a highly available compute architecture.

Sanjay Ravi, General Manager, Automotive, Mobility & Transportation at Microsoft says:

“Electric transportation requires a collaborative effort, with companies working together to share the knowledge and technology needed to turn critical insights into powerful business actions. To make this a reality, Microsoft Azure is enabling Hitachi Vantara to manage its datasets at scale, using new insights to help reduce the cost of owning and running electric vehicle fleets.”

Beyond enabling us to scale the project, Azure cloud processes mean data collected in near real time that can be managed and analysed efficiently and effectively, using Hitachi Vantara’s proprietary IoT platform. All this data enables Hitachi Vantara’s platform and data scientists to see where there are gaps in effectiveness – such as the location of charging points – and share insights with the power and fleet providers. It will also help fleets benefit from lower cost smart charging solutions by feeding into UK Power Networks’ in-house distributed energy resource management platform.

According to Ian Cameron, Head of Customer Service and Innovation at UK Power Networks:

“When large scale fleet operators decide to switch from petrol or diesel to electric, the impact will be instant. There’s incredible potential to improve the air quality of our towns and cities.”

What’s next?

There are currently over 3,000 vehicles involved in the trial, with results set to be announced in 2022. Looking into the future – and ahead of rapidly approaching environmental targets – we see an opportunity for this project to be applicable to the whole market, not just in the UK, but all over the world.

There’s no doubt that meeting environmental targets requires a collaborative effort, with companies and organisations working together to share the knowledge and tools needed to surface actionable insights. Within this, we also see a broader opportunity to help people manage the electrification of their fleets, where everyone can learn, use our solutions, or take their own learnings and build their own solutions from what we discover.

Azure cloud is helping to create these conditions as part of this next phase of the project and we’re proud to be working with Microsoft to make tangible EV rollout a reality across the UK and beyond. We certainly look forward to what we can achieve together.

Martin Kochman is Vice President of Sales, DI Professional Services, Hitachi Vantara.

Martin Kochman

Martin Kochman

Martin specializes in managing large innovation and data-driven programs, including Optimise Prime, the world's biggest commercial EV project. He has led additional sustainability focused efforts, including the creation of sustainability analytics and reporting.