Four smart grid projects managed by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) are improving the infrastructure needed for charging electric vehicles—work that will reduce petroleum dependence, enhance environmental stewardship, and improve economic growth through job creation.
Because electric vehicles represent a key pathway for reaching transportation sustainability and economic goals, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability directed its Smart Grid Research and Development Program to aggressively pursue projects to reduce the cost of the electric-vehicle charging infrastructure and enable smart charging of electric vehicles.
The Grid Integration Technology Team—comprising the domestic automotive industry, electric utilities, and Energy Department programs and national laboratories—identified the need to reduce the installed cost of the charging infrastructure as a key to transitioning electric vehicles from early market acceptance to mainstream adoption. The team’s work recognized that, in the next 3 to 5 years, about 60 models of electric vehicles will be available to consumers.
Four NETL-managed projects were selected to undertake the work. Two are aimed at improving electric vehicle charging at residential locations and two target commercial sites. Each has reported early success in reducing the cost of charging equipment by 50–55 percent from the current price point by consolidating circuitry, improving manufacturing methods, and incorporating modular designs. Some of the innovations in development could allow owners of electric vehicles to control charging from smart phones. Others will enable utilities to control "hot spots"—areas where pole transformers experience high demand from distribution charging.
The projects are required to deliver infrastructure improvements that have been independently tested before moving on to a demonstration phase. Independent testing is set for completion during summer 2014. Demonstrations will be performed in parking structures, parking lots, garages, and electric-vehicle depots for fleet charging. More charging stations and significant enhancements to the electric-vehicle industry will result from the research. This, in turn, is expected to foster a higher penetration of electric-vehicle ownership across the nation.
Some of the improvements from these projects are expected to encourage smart charging—an infrastructure improvement that will allow power draws from electric vehicles to be scheduled so they do not stress existing grid capacity and, instead, enhance electric system efficiencies and incorporate renewable energy on a local basis. Smart charging of electric vehicles will defer the costs of expanding and upgrading electricity generation, transmission, and distribution capacity; reduce energy costs through improved electric system efficiencies; and enhance environmental quality from renewable integration.
Encouraging improvements to the smart grid and electric-vehicle charging infrastructure is only one part of the Energy Department’s work on electric vehicle issues. In a parallel effort, the Energy Department, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, awarded $2.4 billion in loans to three electric-vehicle manufacturing facilities; $2 billion in grants to support production of batteries, motors, and other electric-vehicle components; and $400 million in grants for coordinated demonstration of electric vehicles in more than 20 cities. These investments, combined with private-sector cost-sharing, have accelerated the introduction of electric vehicles into the market.
For more information about how NETL is helping to build the 21st century grid , please visit the Energy Department’s Smart Grid website.
This month, NETL and many other of the Energy Department’s national labs are showcasing their contributions to "Electricity Across America." For more information, please visit the Energy Department’s national lab webpage.