Combining Electric Cars With Smart Grid Technology Can Cut Charging Costs In Half

Credit: Anthill Online

Electric cars are one of the key pieces of the renewable energy economy of the future, but they do come with a few challenges: charging them currently takes a while (30 minutes to a few hours), charging can add considerably to a home’s overall electricity use, and — when scaled up to thousands or millions of homes — that charging places a lot of extra demand on an electrical grid. At the same time, smart grid technology offers two-way information and communication between consumers and providers, allowing the first to better manage their electricity use and costs, and the second to better manage electricity supply. But so far, there hasn’t been much investigation into how smart grid technology could help with electric car charging specifically.

Enter a new demonstration project from the Australian state of Victoria. As part of the Victorian Department of Transport’s Electric Vehicle Trial, the firm DiUS outfitted ten electric-car-owning homes with their ChargeIQ system. The participants could pick “on demand” charging, which works the same way recharging something like an electric razor or drill works — you plug it in, and it immediately starts drawing power. Or they could pick the “smart” charging option, using the ChargeIQ’s smart grid technology to manage the charging of their cars. This would allow them to monitor their charging from a website or a smartphone app, respond to suggestions for the best time to charge, make choices, and react to unanticipated events.

The designers used flexible pricing so participants could respond to peak and off-peak costs, and they were even occasionally hit with simulated events such as an outage due to weather, a demand peak, or a heat wave to see how they’d respond. The result? Participants using the smart grid option cut their charging costs in half, and the electrical utility itself enjoyed less strain and smoother power utilization.

Based on residential electricity tariffs and the project outcomes, Victorian electric vehicle drivers could save around $250 per year, or around 50 per cent on their charging costs, by adopting ‘Smart’ charging practices. Grid-integrated ‘Smart’ charging technology would deliver this saving without sacrifice or effort on their part.

Managing electric vehicle charging at the network level will not only defer costly infrastructure upgrades through peak demand management, but may deliver better returns on existing investments through improved asset utilization. Grid-integrated ‘Smart’ charging technology would deliver these benefits and avoid creation of a ‘second peak’ in electricity demand as drivers individually defer charging to the off-peak period. Importantly, the outcome from these improvements will be lower costs for all electricity consumers – not just those who drive EVs.

“Using ChargeIQ to manage EV charging through the Smart Grid, the project has demonstrated how EVs can be integrated into our electricity networks — easily, conveniently and cheaply,” said Clency Coutet, Director at/of DiUS Computing, arguing for the global relevance of some of the demonstration’s findings.

That said, there were some hiccups. In at least one instance, the ChargeIQ equipment was installed over an unusually far and cluttered distance from the relevant smart meter, making communication between the two devices difficult. In a few instances, decisions from the participants took as long as fifty minutes to transmit to the ChargeIQ station — though the vast majority of the transmissions occurred within a few seconds. This led the project authors to make several recommendations, including the need to formalize practices to ensure the equipment is properly installed and that connectivity issues are responded to promptly.

Another point not mentioned in the report, but worth considering, is that using the ChargeIQ technology involves a lot of internet use. That brings up an economic justice issue, since regular access to computers, smartphone devices, and the internet is often unavailable to people lower down the income ladder.

Of course, identifying such challenges early and getting out ahead of them is what these sorts of preliminary experiments are for. And the dramatic cost reductions are evidence that moving to renewable technology won’t just mean isolated changes to help the climate — it will mean overlapping and reinforcing benefits that end up in people’s pocketbooks.

(HT: RenewEconomy)

11 Responses to Combining Electric Cars With Smart Grid Technology Can Cut Charging Costs In Half

  1. Gingerbaker says:

    Electric car owners could save a lot more on their transportation costs if their tax dollars (or gasoline dollars) were spent on new public renewable energy infrastructure that sold the resulting electricity for the cost of sunshine – which is zero.

    If we redirected what we pay to fossil fuel companies over the next few years, it would pay for such a utility, and all our transportation, heating, and cooling costs could be zero.

    Oh yeah – and it would mean no more CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere to boot.

    Yeah, we could solve AGW *and* reduce our major personal and business expenses by spending our money more wisely.

  2. Dan Miller says:

    Every Tesla Model S has a full-time Internet connection and can charge at home at the rate of 56 added miles/hour using the Tesla High Power Wall Charger (or half that rate with a normal 220V outlet). With just a software update to the car (which they push out every month or so) and a link from local power companies to Tesla, “Smart Charging” could implemented today. Since it only takes a few hours to charge the car, most owners would not mind giving power companies some control of the process in return for a cost savings. “Smart Cars” can take the place of the “Smart Grid” in this instance.

  3. Paul Klinkman says:

    The main problem with solar/wind electricity is its sporadic nature. Pumped hydro, intermittent hydro during the energy generation gaps and/or giant hydrogen-based fuel cells have to take up the gap. If enough consumers are willing to recharge when the sun shines or when the wind blows, solar/wind gets another, more affordable storage option.

    One problem with PV solar in particular, people want to recharge each weeknight in their garages. Jobsite recharging?

  4. Ed Leaver says:

    Does The Tesla Model S Electric Car Pollute More Than An SUV?
    If there’s coal on the grid, then SO2 and NOx fersure. CO2? Not so much. While the concept is to charge EVs off renewables, we aren’t there quite yet. Meantime, its an interesting article, a few things to consider.

  5. Spike says:


    UK Daily Telegraph

    It has become an article of popular faith that building wind farms also involves constructing fossil-fuelled power stations for back‑up when the weather is calm. As a result, some opponents go on to say, wind turbines do little or nothing to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

    Now the National Grid has studied what actually happens in practice, with explosive, if surprising, results. Between April 2011 and September 2012 – its head of energy strategy, Richard Smith, told the Hay Festival – wind produced some 23,700 gigawatt hours (GWh) of power. Only 22GWh of power from fossil fuels was needed to fill the gaps when the wind didn’t blow. That’s less than a thousandth of the turbines’ output – and, as it happens, less than a tenth of what was needed to back up conventional power stations.

    It proved to be much the same with emissions. Wind saved nearly 11 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over that 18 months; standby burning of fossil fuels only reduced this by 8,800 tonnes, or 0.081 per cent.

    Not surprisingly, given these figures, no new fossil‑fuel power station has been built to provide back‑up for wind farms, and none is in prospect.

  6. Gingerbaker says:

    The article seems to show that claims that the Tesla pollutes more than an SUV were very poorly constructed and that the author of the claim was financially motivated to be negative about Tesla.

  7. Ed Leaver says:

    Of course. But Mr. Noland also agrees there is no free lunch.

  8. fj says:

    In systems using net zero vehicles small and light enough to be easily powered by human power, electric powering is trivial.

  9. fj says:

    Same goes for safety, insurance, law enforcement, financing, infrastructure, changes . . .

  10. fj says:

    . . . and, economic and environmental justice.

  11. fj says:

    . . . with a net energy gain and environmental footprint reduction.