This month’s magazine column brings the latest electric vehicle trends and new EV brands about to launch in Britain, with updates on the power generation front and, of course, the latest from the LEO satellite broadband sector.
Previous Net Work columns brought news of trends emerging in Britain’s electric vehicle sector, as the lurch towards car electrification gathers pace. However, the signs are that interest in buying used EVs has cooled dramatically in Britain: wary buyers, already feeling the pinch from the rising cost of living and energy costs, are deterred by the dearth of EV charging points, worries about range anxiety and nagging doubts about becoming lumbered with yesterday’s outdated (or worn out) battery technology. As used EVs are gradually ‘returning to the market’, some used EV models are dropping in value, and some dealerships have stopped stocking them altogether, in order to avoid getting stuck with large inventories of rapidly-depreciating electric cars that simply aren’t selling.
In the January 2022 issue I mentioned a possible charging solution for EV owners in the shape of a semi-portable battery pack on wheels, called the ZipCharge Go. This well-publicised powerbank was being developed for ‘topping up’ EVs in the street or car park – the idea sounded promising and was due to launch sometime this year, but I’ve seen learned that the ZipCharge Go never made it to prototype. This illustrates the typical vagaries of this fast-moving tech sector.
^ The Atto 3 is BYD’s (Build Your Dream) first EV to launch in Britain, featuring a futuristic interior and ‘Blade’ battery
^ The cabin is ‘built with the concept of sports and fitness’ with a ‘trendy and avant-garde design’, BYD says. Traditional motorists might not agree.
I write this month about the latest EV brand to arrive in Britain. Cars made by BYD Auto will arrive this year, starting with the attractive BYD Atto 3 compact SUV. The Atto 3 is expected to cost around £35,000 and more details are at https://www.byd.com/eu/car/atto3
Of particular interest is BYD’s ‘Blade’ lithium iron phosphate battery that they claim is amongst the safest in the world. BYD adds that their smart technology allows for ‘bi-directional EV charging’. Suitably-equipped vehicles could charge overnight at off-peak times when energy demand is low, and become a powerbank to feed energy back into the electricity grid when demand is high. V2G (Vehicle to Grid) tech is still in its infancy in the UK though.
Despite earlier dire predictions of possible power cuts, the UK seems to be weathering the winter storms well, at least as far as energy consumption is concerned. Software developer Kate Rose Morley has coded a very impressive website that publishes more live National Grid data than I know what to do with, and it’s available at https://grid.iamkate.com/. Historical trend graphs (under ‘Generation’) show the gradual total elimination of coal, a steady decline in nuclear and a rise in wind power generation over the past ten years. For a different outlook on the National Grid stats, try the graphs and dials shown on https://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/
^ The first of two French-built 500 tonne reactor vessels arrived at the UK’s Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in February.
The Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Britain is the first new one to be built in 20 years. In February the site received the first of two French-built 500 tonne nuclear reactor vessels, as construction of this ‘too-big-to-fail’ power station continues with completion expected within five years. Interested readers can find more background on the history and status of Hinkley Point C at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinkley_Point_C_nuclear_power_station
^ A Russian-built poloidal field coil was successfully delivered to the multinational ITER nuclear fusion pilot plant in France in February.
Previously covered in Net Work, December 2022, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) is an ambitious multi-national effort being built in France to explore the boundaries of nuclear fusion. The ITER tokomak will not however be used to generate electricity for the grid. In February, after a near four-month voyage from St. Petersburg, a giant Russian-made 160 tonne poloidal field coil was successfully delivered to the ITER site having taken some six years to fabricate. Russia’s Rosatom is contributing 400 tonnes of equipment to the ITER project which has now reached 78% along the road to ‘first plasma’.
London-based network operator OneWeb continues to build its constellation of satellites intended to provide Internet access between the North Pole and the 50th parallel. OneWeb uses a number of service providers, including friendly rival SpaceX, to launch small batches of its satellites into LEO.
^ India’s Space Research Organisation Dept of Space readies a payload of 36 OneWeb satellites for launch into low-earth orbit
In October 2022 a jubilant Indian Space Research organisation (ISRO) launched its new LVM3 (Launch Vehicle Mk. III) rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota and it successfully placed 36 OneWeb satellites into their intended orbits. The triumph was one of India’s biggest ever commercial orders, and the launch can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qO8ML1h4EU8). OneWeb’s constellation of 542 first-generation satellites is nearing completion, and a second launch from India lifted off in March.
The European Spaceport in French Guyana, which is situated in northeastern South America. accommodates the European Ariane 5 rocket as well as Russian-built Soyuz vehicles, but the ESA continues to develop its long-overdue Ariane 6 launcher which is now slated to launch from French Guyana by the year end. Last year, Arianespace signed a contract with Amazon for 18 flights carrying satellites into LEO for Project Kuiper, Amazon’s own satellite-based Internet service that is still seeking regulatory approval. More details are at https://www.arianespace.com/.
Net Work brought more space news in this issue. Japan’s first launch of its new H3 rocket on March 7th ended in failure when a self-destruct signal had to be sent to abort the mission, destroying the Advanced Land Observing Satellite-3 payload. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) suspects that the second stage failed to ignite. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RWCnKbysO0). Space is still hard to do and full of ‘anomalies’ and ‘launch attempts’, as JAXA, Virgin Orbit, Skyrora and ABL Space Systems have all recently found.
^ The Ivie Bud is a replacement In-Home Display with app, for UK smart meter owners. Check compatibility online.
Green tech company Ivie is selling a replacement or upgrade In-Home Display (IHD) for British smart meter owners. The Ivie Bud costs £49.99 and will work with any energy supplier, they say, but it’s necessary to check smart meter compatibility before buying. This can be done online at https://ivie.co.uk/product/ivie-bud/ and the Ivie app is available from Google Play the App Store. Alternatively, there’s the Loop app (with no IHD) that links to your smart meter, see https://loop.homes
That’s all for this month’s Net Work. Read more in my Net Work column in Practical Electronics this month!