Electric Vehicle and Smart Grid Networks

Electric Vehicle and Smart Grid Networks

Solar EV ChargingBy John Addison (updated 1/17/12; original 9/7/11)

Thousands of electric cars are now communicating with owner’s smart phones, charging stations, and service networks. These EVs are plugging into smart grids that use network communications to charge off-peak, monitor and improve reliablity.

When I use my Blink EVSE to charge my Nissan Leaf, the charger sends a packet of info to the charging network every 15 minutes using Sprint. The charger is communications-ready supporting CDMA, Wi-Fi, and powerline communications (PLC). With the Nissan LEAF app on my Droid I can remotely monitor charging, or pre-heat or pre-cool the car while still plugged-in, saving battery range. My Droid uses Verizon.

While driving, the LEAF’s navigation system uses GPS. If I want to listen to Pandora, my smartphone communicates with the LEAF via Bluetooth. When I park at a ChargePoint for public charging, the Coulomb ChargePoint uses RF to talk with my member smartcard. When charging, the ChargePoint uses various wireless carriers in different countries with protocols such as GPRS and CDMA. The charger even sends me a text when charging is completed or if someone disconnects my car.

Smart Grid Uses Wireless and Mesh Networks

A DOE study identified how we can charge 170 million electric cars in the U.S. before needing to add generation such as renewables, natural gas, nuclear, or coal. Charging needs to be done off-peak. With smart charging communications that is easy to do. I have preset charging my LEAF off peak. When I connect the charger, no electrons flow until the nighttime hour is reached. State utility regulators need to allow utilities A low rate for off-peak charging and higher for on-peak charging and electricity use. No benefits occur until utilities upgrade their old one-way grid communications to two-way smart grid.

As utilities install smart meters, such time of use (TOU) pricing and demand response become realities. Beyond what is visible to their customers, electric utilities are becoming more reliable and efficient with smart grid technology that communicates: advanced meters, smart transformers, sensors, distribution automation, and intelligent energy management.

When I charge and use electricity at home, my PG&E utility smart meter uses RF mesh technology to route the data along with sensor data so that they can manage the grid, collect billing information, and allow me to view home use through an internet browser.

As wireless carriers lower their rates to compete with mesh networks, other utilities take different approaches. Texas utility TNMP is including a CDMA modem in all of the 241,000 smart meters that it is installing.

Transformers and distributed automation are smarter so that sudden changes in load can be better managed and an outage in one location does not take down the neighborhood. SDG&E is charging thousands of electric vehicles with a smart grid.

SDG&E is installing smart transformers and distributed automation that more quickly isolates and handles problems. These devices communicate with centralized GIS and IT applications that keep everything running. Cisco 1000 Series Connected Gird Routers are integral to the field area network.

Duke Energy’s David Masters writes, “Duke Energy defines the digital grid as an end-to-end energy Internet powered by two-way digital technology. It is comprised of an Internet Protocol (IP) based, open standards communication network that allows for automation and the exchange of near real-time information as well as enabling the adoption of new technologies as they become available. Duke Energy’s digital grid will have more efficient and reliable transmission and distribution systems; it will leverage energy efficiency programs to reduce wasted energy; it will integrate more distributed energy resources into our grid and decrease carbon emissions.” Duke Energy is co-locating 3G and 4G cellular communication nodes with transformers. These WAN nodes communicate with RF and PLC to smart meters, charging stations, demand response appliances, street light systems, grid sensors and capacitor banks.

EPB, Chattanooga, Tennessee, not only delivers electricity to the home, it delivers broadband fiber optics for fast internet access and streaming video. While most utilities are slowly deploying smart grid, starting with smart meters, EPB installs a broadband router in the home with far more capability than a meter.

Our use of energy will get smarter as utilities fully-deploy smart grids and regulators encourage them share more information. For example, automakers are already demonstrating smart apps so that owners could program preferred charging to occur when high-levels of renewable energy is delivered to the grid, such as wind blowing at night. Smart apps and RE price incentives would encourage the growth of clean and safe energy.

Instead of firing-up dirty peaker plants on hot afternoons when air conditioning is blasting, a smart grid could draw power from utility fleets that are glad to sell power at premium rates. Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) has been successfully tested. V2G is part of our future.

The Networked Electric Vehicle

On October 20, utility and automotive executives will attend GTM and Greentech Media’s The Networked EV Conference  to review the details of the convergence of electric vehicles and smart grids. GTM has published a new research report – The Smart Utility Enterprise 2011-2015: IT Systems Architecture, Cyber Security and Market Forecast

The ongoing deployment of smart grid infrastructure (i.e., smart meters and distribution automation) in the U.S. is prompting utility strategists to re-evaluate their organizations’ back-end enterprise architectures in order to enable next-gen utility business and operational services, such as dynamic pricing, grid optimization, self-healing grids and renewables integration. Utilities are just now beginning to understand the implications of outfitting their dated enterprise architectures with current information (IT) and operations (OT) technologies required to offer next-gen smart grid applications.

It will take years for most utilities to deploy smart grids. The cost will be in the billions. The savings will be in the trillions as drivers use less foreign oil and as level demand and energy efficiency replace the need for new coal and nuclear power plants.

Growth is strong for electric vehicles, renewable energy, and smart grid. The growth of one benefits the other. With smart communications, we are enjoying efficient transportation, energy independence, and clean air.

Will your Utility be ready for your Networked EV?

Will your Utility be ready for your Networked EV?

WattStation & Smart EDBy John Addison (11/30/10)

Yes, your electric utility will be ready to charge your new electric car if you live in the right city.  Your odds improve if you live in one of 18 cities, own a house that uses air conditioning, has a garage, and have new underground power lines. If you live in an apartment with no garage, especially in a non-priority city, then get ready to be a brave pioneer.

I recently invested a day listening, interviewing, and networking with forward thinking utility executives and some of the smartest people in the smart grid business at GTM Research and Greentech Media’s Networked EV conference.

Nissan has started shipping the LEAF. Chevrolet has handed car keys to early Volt customers. Forty thousand new electric vehicles will be on the U.S. highways by the end of 2011. Charging these vehicles could be the equivalent of powering another 40,000 houses. Since the sub-prime mortgage crisis has left that many houses empty, you would think that charging 40,000 cars should raise no concerns. Charging one million by 2015, however, is both a challenge and an opportunity.

Utility executives are raising concerns and conducting PR campaigns. They want to make sure that they are ready, that no neighborhood blackouts happen, and that they make money charging these electric cars. Early Prius sales were concentrated to certain communities; it will be the same story with electric cars. For example, universities and tech centers will have a concentration of EVs that will lead utilities to install smart meters, add smart grid software, and add $9,000 transformers. In many cases, public utility commissions must support these upgrades so that utilities make money charging EVs.

Even morning charging at work or public spots is fine with most utilities. Peak demand is often in the afternoon and early evening. It greatly helps that all electric cars, from LEAFs to Volts, use smart charging. Charging does not start when you plug-in. It starts based on your preferences, such as charging at lower night rates. With a couple of clicks on your smartphone app, night preferences can be overridden with your request to immediately charge.

Temporary TOU tiered pricing will be tested in cities such as San Diego to see if people are encouraged to charge off-peak. Some lucky test households will pay super off-peak rates that are only 1/6 of peak rates when charging their new plug-ins in San Diego. Money incentives and the simplicity of smart charging should lead to most charging being done off-peak.

Eighteen cities from San Diego to Seattle, from New York to Raleigh, have been preparing for the deliver of thousands of electric cars by installing 15,000 public charging stations as part of a DOE Ecotality project. Independently, thousands of home charging stations are being installed by EV drivers.

Greg Haddow with SDG&E in San Diego described how they have evaluated best locations for public charging considering geographies of early buyer interested as reported by their customers and automakers, employment centers, and strategic areas of public use. Starting this December, ten stations per week will be installed, with quantities increasing until 2,500 are installed.

Electric vehicle interest has been strong in areas of urban density, so SDG&E has engaged with many apartment and condo complexes. No two multi-unit dwellings have been the same in parking structures, renter/owner allocation of spaces, meters, panels, and power currently available to the complex. Some EV enthusiasts have been surprised to learn that their rental agreements prohibit EVs or use of parking power. Condo CCRs vary.

Electric utilities have already successfully handled bigger challenges than charging EVs.  They have added underground lines, new transformers, and distribution to handle new real estate development including hundreds of McMansions, each demanding more juice than even a Tesla. Utilities are upgrading grids and infrastructure to support megawatts of distributed solar. Electric utilities take on new industrial parks with hours of surges in demand for electricity.

PG&E with 5.1 million electricity customers was ranked the greenest utility in U.S. by Newsweek 2009 and 2010. It has developed three scenarios to support 220,000 to 850,000 plug-in vehicles by 2020 in its service area. Kevin Dasso, Senior Director of Smart Grid for PG&E, contrasted two neighborhoods where there is a concentration of those ordering Nissan LEAFs and Chevrolet Volts – Silicon Valley and Berkeley. New developments in Silicon Valley will be easier. The distribution infrastructure is already there to support larger air conditioned homes, newer underground wiring, and newer transformers.  A plug-in hybrid will not equal the demand of one large home. Berkeley homes are supported with older infrastructure, less likely to have air conditioning. One battery-electric car could create more demand than one home.

Yes, your electric utility will be ready for your new EV. If you live in an older neighborhood with energy-efficient homes, some planning and upgrading will be needed. The impact will be less than adding new developments, new industrial parks, and even high-growth of solar power. Most charging will be done off-peak, allowing utilities to run their most efficient power plants 24/7 and make better use of nighttime wind-power. The key to off-peak charging will be the incentives of TOU pricing and the fact that your networked EV is smart enough to charge when rates are lowest.

For a nation that is 95 percent dependent on petroleum for transportation, the chance to use home grown energy should be a blessing, especially in 70 percent efficient electric drive systems, instead of 15 percent efficient gasoline engine drive systems. Done right, your electric utility will make money. Most utility generation assets are underutilized at night when home charging is ideal; generation is underutilized in the morning when workplace charging ideally occurs.