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Automakers are working with various electric utilities around the world to figure out how to best integrate vehicle with the grid. One of the requireents for the coming flood of plug-in cars is a way to smarten up the cars' energy use. A research team at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has developed a Smart Charger Controller that could eliminate the need for automakers to develop proprietary charging controllers in electric vehicles, whether BEVs or PHEVs.

Developed by Michael Kintner-Meyer and his team over 15 months, the PNNL Smart Charger Controller receives wireless signals that are broadcast by the utility and contain power prices to tell the car when to charge and when to stop sucking juice from the grid. The controller can also sense "stress condidions" and pause charging if a grid overload situation is imminent. Kintner-Meyer said the devices could save plug-in vehicle owners up tp $150 a year in energy costs by taking advantage of off-peak energy prices.

[Source: PNNL via Green Car Advisor]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 1 Month Ago
      A $5 timer will work for now. But what is going to happen in a few years, when 20% of the cars in your city start pulling 3 kW or even up to 50 kW (fast charge) out of the socket, all at the same time?

      The utility companies inevitably are going to change the peak hours, or even use flexible peak times. And they will start to demand, you cut down your usage when brownouts are imminent. The PNNL box is what the utilities will demand we use in the near future.

      I used 2200 kWh electricity last year.
      My car used 125 Gallons of fuel, or 4000 kWh.

      What will happen to the grid if the electricity use in every household triples?
        • 1 Month Ago

        Assuming you have an ultra efficient car of 60mpg, you would have driven 7500 miles last year. Assuming you replaced that car with this Nissan one (~3miles/kwh), you would only need 7500/3 = 2500 kWh, not 4000k kWh. In other words, fuel energy for motion is half as efficient as electrical energy for motion.

        So that's like having the population doubling and requiring that energy...can't happen overnight...neither can adoption of EVs. The utilities will have time to upgrade as EV adoption occurs. Not a problem.

        FYI, my solar panels generated 7000kwh last year. I used 5000kwh for my household needs. If I had the Nissan EV, I would have been able to travel 2000*3 = 6000 miles without increasing electricity demands AND without using 200 gallons of gasoline (100 gal of which is foreign). Why we still insist on driving gasoline vehicles is beyond me.

        • 1 Month Ago
        Also the first electric cars will mostly be used as city commuting vehicles with lower average speeds and a limited range. While ICEs suck the gas when stuck in traffic these cars will use very little energy and are well suited to urban commuting which will lessen the overall energy requirements compared to a gasoline car.
        • 1 Month Ago
        Your current car is only about 20% efficient so you wasted 3200kWh as heat, only 800kWh of energy was used to push your car.

        An electric car will be about 85% efficient so you will only need to fill the battery with 941kWh in order to drive your car the same amount. This is a more manigable 43% increase in electricity usage vs the 300% increase you suppose.

        An electric car will likely be more efficient than your current oil burner(areodynamic + low rolling resistance + regerative braking) which will further reduce the amount of energy required.

        Then you can use your timer to charge the car during off peak hours which is by definition when the grid has excess capacity.

        A 2006 study for the Department of Energy finds that "off-peak" electricity production and transmission capacity could fuel 70% percent of the U.S. light-duty vehicle (LDV) fleet, if they were plug-in hybrid electrics.

        A UK study says 3million electric cars would increase electric demand less than 2%:

        Also the transition to electric cars will not happen overnight, it will take 10-20 years for a significant shift to happen during this time we can build more wind/tidal/solar generation capacity to keep up with the modest increase in demand.
      • 1 Month Ago
      How bout a $5 timer that turns on the outlet at 10 pm instead?
      • 1 Month Ago
      This research is a waste of money.

      1. A $20 timed charger will work fine for the next 30 years. A granular closed loop smart demand controller is silly. Daily demand at night will be near constant.
      2. Utility companies already do wireless HVAC demand control and its widely deployed. The exact same unit could be used for cars. Why reinvent the WHEELS.
      3. You could just add like 2 lines of code to the cars software to do the exact same thing. Why would new hardware be needed?