213488 Zenobē x Supercharge: Leading the UK’s clean energy revolution
Fast Company World Changing Ideas 2021

leading the UK's clean energy revolution

Zenobē’s storage solutions help businesses utilise energy in a more efficient and environmentally friendly way. With the power of technology and innovation we have supported them on their journey of grounding a much greener future.

Fast Company World Changing Ideas 2021
Zenobe - Bus Operator Platform
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Leading the UK’s clean energy revolution

We love to work on products that improve the world in an almost invisible way behind the scenes. Such as Zenobē’s storage solutions which helps businesses and even countries to utilise energy in a more efficient and environmentally friendly way.

We rarely think about the foundations our comfortable life is built upon, but take electricity: it seems like a basic utility but it is very different from the other energy types we use. Historically when electricity has been generated it needed to be used immediately, due to costly storage processes. This results in the need for complex forecasts leading to estimations that keep supply and demand in balance for the whole network, which is further complicated by the growing importance of renewable energy sources which are beyond the full control of humans.

Innovative energy storage services are aimed at breaking this pattern and reducing the time of usage from the time of generation by creating reserve capacities. While Zenobē’s team knows the ends and outs of building the perfect temporary home for electrons, we worked with them in building a software which enables a very precise management of these battery systems.

Working with Zenobē is never without challenges, however, it thrills us to support them with our innovative out-of-the-box thinking, IT expertise, and our creativity as they keep exploring novel use cases for battery technology.

Our partnership with Zenobē is based on mutual trust and shared knowledge which has resulted in the freedom to trial, experiment and roll out innovative next-gen solutions that are essential to the full transition to clean energy. icon quote

Enabling the green revolution within cities through smart charging

Zenobe electric bus depot illustration
Zenobe Bus asset

In an ongoing effort to combat the effects of climate change, many cities are transitioning from fossil fuel-powered transport to cleaner and more sustainable electric alternatives. This trend is apparent in the United Kingdom, which is setting ambitious targets to become carbon net-zero in the near future.

As a result, mass transit vehicles are increasingly turning green due to incentives and regulations enacted by the UK government. While this is a positive shift, the challenge lies within the lack of infrastructure (e.g. complex hardware systems such as bus charging stations, which often means a complete redesigning of bus depots) and software solutions that can report the actual condition of buses.

These challenges can make the transition to sustainable bus operations less desirable for more traditional players of the transportation sector.

Zenobē, the UK’s leading owner and operator of battery storage, tackles this issue by utilising innovative finance and technology solutions to enable bus operators to make the transition from fossil fuels to renewable electricity sources.

As a fast growing player in the UK’s energy sector, Zenobē brings unrivalled energy expertise to provide services to commercial EV operators, lending their battery services; including installing the entire charging infrastructure and providing a software solution that facilitates optimal bus charging.

While Zenobē’s team know how to build efficient energy storage solutions, Supercharge helped them build a digital platform which enables the precise management of a complex system of batteries delivering real time data used to optimise performance of both the batteries and buses.

Optimising EV charging on bus depots with limited grid availability 

And here’s the important part, optimisation is key! Large numbers of electric vehicles found in the average fleet require a massive amount of power to charge them. However, due to electric grid constraints, this is not viable. As an example, you simply cannot plug and charge 16 buses at the same time at one location. The perfect solution is to deploy a stationary battery asset on-site and charge it while the buses are in the daily traffic. 

The platform we developed ensures that during night time hours the fully-charged stationary battery supplements the required energy that the grid connection cannot supply resulting in a more timely and cost-effective approach.icon quote

This may sound simple but it requires very precise management of the assets with as little manual control as possible. Once the buses are plugged into the charger, the system carefully balances utilisation of the two energy sources: the goal is to maximise grid usage without ever overstressing it whilst using as little energy from the stationary battery as possible to enable this.

This delicate mechanism ensures that a much larger amount of buses can be charged overnight, resulting in all buses being ready for service the following morning.

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As a result of our work together, we contributed to a solution that aims to remove more than 135,000 tonnes of CO2 from the Earth’s atmosphere.

Designing the experience: satisfying conflicting user needs

Early on in the design process, it was established that the users of this platform have quite distinctive user needs and requirements. One of our most important goals was not to disrupt the overnight processes of all employees working in the depots. Historically, all of these bus depots were operating diesel buses which would mean electrifying part of their fleet would involve a very different approach and practice.

Throughout a two month service design discovery project working with bus depot stakeholders and Zenobē’s experts in the EV market, we mapped out the most optimum workflow that could fit seamlessly into the depot’s existing operations, whilst Zenobē’s data science experts modelled the most efficient charging strategy.

The monitoring webapp was also designed with these in mind, enabling both high level overview and detailed analytics at the same time in order to satisfy all user requirements. 

Zenobe lightning asset

Integrating to multiple EV Chargers

Zenobē’s unique offering and portfolio required us to integrate to multiple AC and DC smart chargers. As all smart chargers in the industry use the Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) – but interpret it in a very different way – we had to come up with a strategy for creating an OCPP service that runs locally on each bus depot (in order to react to varying grid load in real time).

This implementation had to be generic enough for us not to have to implement the same thing all the time, yet specific enough to allow for the variations of each charger type. 

Providing constant data sources about the vehicles, their routes and their drivers

In addition to managing and optimising fleet charging, the software has other benefits as well. It provides constant data captures about the vehicles, their routes and their drivers. Bus operators are able to give personalised feedback to bus drivers and even educate them for a more energy-conscious way of driving. This often results in an elevated passenger experience as well. 

Zenobe smart charging

The right technical architecture enables smooth operation at scale

For those who want to know what lies behind the scenes, here are a few words about the flexible and robust stack we picked for Zenobē to keep up with their appetite for innovation. We have built a powerful, AWS based, cloud-hosted backend using Node.js and a scalable microservice architecture.

The entire platform has been architected and built from individual components that can run in multiple instances completely independently. We have designed and manufactured a custom hardware for Zenobē that is the heart of control for all of the chargers and stationary batteries locally on site. This hardware solution both provides redundant and reliable offline operation 24/7.

In order to help expert Zenobē operators handle any possible scenarios, we have crafted a secure admin interface so they can monitor the health and conditions of their battery assets whilst having the ability to take full control over them if the need arises. 

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The platform delivers a holistic overview of an operator’s entire bus operation, giving them more information at their disposal to continuously drive their transition to a greener and more efficient future.

Controlling immense battery containers to help balance energy grid services

Zenobe battery farm illustration

Besides the EV revolution, Zenobē is also the UK’s leading owner and operator of battery storage, with assets of over 170 MW (that is equal to powering up to 400 households for an hour), including the largest Tesla battery installation in the UK. As an established player in the UK’s electricity scene they bring unrivalled energy and innovative solutions to provide services to industrial and commercial businesses and utilities. 

Back in 2018 when Zenobē started working with us, together we built the first ever platform to be dispatched for National Grid’s brand new Fast Reserve system. On the 19th of July 2018, National Grid dispatched 50MW of power through the software and hardware solution that we designed, and discharged 30MWh of energy from Zenobē’s battery assets across three different sites. Since then we have worked with Zenobē to extend their grid service capabilities with Firm Frequency Response (FFR) and National Grid’s latest balancing service: Dynamic Containment (DC). 

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We are proud to have supported Zenobē on their journey of grounding a much greener future with the power of technology and innovation.

Are you ready to join the green revolution and build a digital solution that drives real positive impact? Let’s get in touch!