Kaluza – a British smart energy platform – loudly trumpets the four Ds of energy – decarbonisation, decentralisation, digitalisation and democratisation.
Previously named VCharge, Kaluza began life as a technology division within the green energy company OVO Group, but it now provides software and hardware solutions as well as in-home installation services to a range of partners.
Kaluza says its mission is to securely connect all devices to an intelligent zero carbon grid. Alongside its parent company OVO Group, it’s also investing in vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology.
Tom Pakenham is Kaluza’s Director of Electric Vehicles. He told us how the smart platform works.
“Take an EV owner who wants his car to be ready by 7 o’clock in the morning, fully charged. Kaluza decides what the most intelligent way of charging the EV is between the moment you plug-in and 7 o’clock the following morning to make the best use of renewable energy at the lowest cost to the customer? We then create charging profiles and send instructions to reduce or increase the charging speed.”
Kaluza creates savings for the customer by moving charging around and providing power at different times of the day. Pakenham explains it’s a very customer-centric approach.
“So the customer says, I want to charge the cheapest way; I want to charge the lowest carbon way; I want to charge the fastest way. Whichever the customer chooses, Kaluza makes that happen.”
OVO and Kaluza are also moving rapidly into the V2G market. Its 6kW Charger is the world’s first domestic bi-directional charger. It offers drivers of certain electric vehicles the opportunity to discharge excess electricity from their cars back to the electric grid, to help supply energy at times of peak demand and potentially make them money.
Pakenham told us: “We currently have the largest residential V2G programme in the world, already installed. A lot of people are focussing on fleet. They see fleet as a good place because of the certainty of the usage patterns. But OVO’s focus is on domestic customers and understanding domestic customers as privately owned cars make up the vast majority of vehicles in the UK.”
After installing the first charger in a UK customer’s home in December last year, it’s now on track to install 1,000 by the middle of 2020.
“Typically a customer plugs in and will make about £300 – £350 ($366 – $427) a year, which should pay for all of their electric driving. The V2G charger hardware is currently free from OVO and you get free electric driving for a year. It’s pretty cool.”
Pakenham expects the future to increasingly be electric due to the urgent need for all of us to decarbonise. But the path to the electric future might not be a smooth one.
“Renewable energy and electric vehicles are exactly what fossil fuels and combustion engines were to each other. They perfectly complement each other. But, to make it work, is extremely complex. You need high levels of intelligence, reliability, experience and data to make it work.”
Earlier this year Kaluza’s parent OVO Group announced a strategic investment from Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation for a 20% stake in the business.
At the time of the announcement, Stephen Fitzpatrick, Founder and CEO of OVO, said: “Transitioning away from fossil fuels is the biggest challenge we face in the 21st Century. The costs of EVs, battery storage and wind and solar power have fallen dramatically in recent years, but it’s becoming increasingly complex to integrate them onto the grid. To succeed, we will need to develop new technology and redesign the energy system around the customer.”
Fitzpatrick added: “We want to be at the forefront of that global, tech-enabled transition to a zero carbon energy system. This investment from Mitsubishi Corporation will help us get there.”
Pakenham concludes: “The OVO Group is growing its retail business internationally. We’re very ambitious and we have a very visionary founder who drives the program forward. And this is the way the energy system is going. So it needs products like the ones that Kaluza is pioneering.”