With the growing popularity of electric vehicles (EVs) on America’s highways, evidenced by an anticipated 60 new commercial models on the market horizon, NETL-managed smart grid projects are making progress in the effort to drive down the costs of charging EVs with innovations for improving the nation’s charging infrastructure.
A Grid Integration Tech team, comprised of representatives of the domestic automotive industry, electric utilities, DOE programs and national laboratories, identified the need to reduce the installed cost of the electric vehicle charging infrastructure as a key to transitioning EVs from early market acceptance to mainstream adoption.
Four infrastructure improvement projects were selected for funding—two aimed at improving EV charging at residential locations (Siemens and Delta) and two that target commercial sites (GE Global Research and Eaton Corp.).
The projects were required to deliver innovations for infrastructure improvements that were independently tested before moving into a demonstration phase. NETL project managers report that the independent testing phase is now complete for three of the four projects with positive results. Each reported early success in reducing the cost of charging equipment by between 50-55 percent of the current price point by consolidating circuitry, improving manufacturing methods, and incorporating modular designs.
Demonstration testing is now under way for the commercial units at multiple locations under varying conditions. The testing, which includes participation by a car manufacturer and utility partners, is aimed at assessing the operational functionality of the EV charging under real conditions. The residential projects are scheduled to begin their demonstration phases soon. More EV charging stations and significant enhancements to the EV industry will result from the research, which will foster a higher penetration of EV ownership across the Nation.
Some of the innovations in development could even allow EV owners to control charging from smart phones. Others will allow utilities to control "hot spots"—areas where pole transformers experience high demand from distribution charging.
Smart charging is an infrastructure improvement that will allow power draws from EVs to be scheduled so that they do not stress existing grid capacity and, instead, enhance electric system efficiencies and incorporate renewable energy sources on a local basis. Smart charging of EVs will defer the costs of generation/transmission/distribution, capacity expansion, and upgrades; reduce energy costs through improved electric system efficiencies; and enhance environmental quality from renewable integration.
Encouraging smart grid and EV charging infrastructure improvements is only a part of overall Energy Department work on EV issues. On a parallel effort, the Energy Department, through AARA, awarded $2.4 billion in loans to three EV manufacturing facilities; $2 billion in grants to support production of batteries, motors, and other EV components; and $400 million in grants for coordinated demonstration of EVs in more than 20 cities. These investments, combined with private-sector cost-shares, have accelerated the introduction of EVs into the market.