By 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.
Smart Charging Can Save
By Tom Bartley (9/21/09).
It’s not as simple as it first appears to know how much money it’ll take to feed a new plug-in. A modern efficient electric cars with braking regeneration will consume less than 300Wh/mile. The new all electric Nissan Leaf is claiming 100 mile range with a 24kWh battery. Taking into account the battery losses, that’s excellent performance at less than 240Wh/mile. In terms of miles-per-gallon (mpg), as calculated by the GM Volt people, the Nissan Leaf achieves infinite mpg because it doesn’t use one drop of gasoline.
But really, you say, how do I compare out of pocket costs and real energy consumption? There are other perspectives, but have faith and follow along for an analysis to impress your friends.
The heat energy of gasoline is 36.6kWh/gallon, but the efficiency of a gasoline engine reduces this to about 10kWh/gallon in terms of the mechanical energy coming out of the engine. For a reasonable non plug-in high fuel economy car of 30 mpg that’s 30 miles per 10kWh or 366Wh/mile, also pretty good performance. In terms of energy efficiency the power company does a bit better in delivering the kWh energy than does the gasoline engine of my car. The picture is even better when energy security and greenhouse gas reductions are considered.
Note: I’m describing my around town commuter needs here, not any long distance trips. Batteries and energy storage are still a long way from coming close to the energy density of liquid fuel. I’ll discuss range anxiety and battery life in a future post.
Now watch closely; this is the part that matters. How much of my spendable cash is going for fuel to move me and my car down the street?
For a non plug-in at $3.00/gallon and 30mpg, I’m spending 10¢/mile.
For a plug-in at 13¢/kWh base rate charging and 0.24kWh/mile, I’m spending 3.12¢/mile.
The plug-in wins hands down and the margin gets even wider if I happen to live in an area with cheaper electricity. For a frequently used national average number of about 8¢/kWh, I’m only spending 1.92¢/mile.
Before you plug-in fans start clapping and cheering, did you notice the slight of hand? Here is more of the story. What is “base rate charging”?
For most of the 138 million electric energy consumers in the country the electric utility company reads the meter once a month and sends out a bill. Everyone pays the same price, the base rate, for the first kWh after the meter reading.
However, if a lot of electricity is used during the month, such as for air conditioning in the summer or heating in the winter, the price of the last kWh before the meter reading could be 3 or 4 times higher than the first kWh. This is called tiered rate tariffs and is analogous to the graduated income tax rate. The more electricity used the more charged per kWh.
The cost to the utility of generating power varies during the day as extra assets are brought on line to meet the demand. To cover the extra cost the utility companies use the monthly tiered rate pricing structure as approved by the Public Utility Commission (PUC) in each state. The monthly tiered rate pricing doesn’t match up well with the daily cost variations.
Charging my plug-in vehicle would accelerate the higher rate tiered rate tariff and by the end of the month, using the numbers from above, I could be paying 6¢ to 13¢/mile for my plug-in.
The solution is Time-Of-Use (TOU) pricing. Smart meters provide the technology for TOU pricing to match the daily cost variations and the utilities love it! 8.3 million (6% of the meter population) of these meters are already installed nationwide and my utility, SDG&E, is planning for TOU pricing to start in 2011. In fact, a smart meter is integral to the new charging units being installed at home, work, and other locations. If I take delivery of a Nissan Leaf in 2010 I can probably get TOU pricing early.
So now I can have some real choices for how much I have to pay to fuel my electric car just like I have choices for which gas station to use to fill my tank. Ideally, I will do all my charging in the middle of the night for the lowest base rate. The computers in the car and the charging system can take care of that. Again the utilities love it because they don’t have to worry about adding assets to meet my demand.
I’m also thinking about doing a little arbitrage, using the battery in my car to store cheap energy and use it in my house when the grid energy is expensive. More about this in a future post. In the next post I’ll also discuss charging issues, maintenance, and intangibles.
You probably caught that I didn’t talk about the cost of replacing my battery. I’ll cover that more in a future post, but here’s a hint – the battery will probably last at least 10 years for over 100,000 driving miles. Present cost estimates are about $300/kWh or $7200 for the Nissan Leaf which adds 7.2¢/mile to the cost of operating my plug-in, but again, it “ain’t” that simple. Stay tuned.
San Diego to Get 100 Nissan EV
By Tom Bartley (3/26/09).
Walking up to the new Nissan Electric Vehicle prototype car, my first surprise was getting into the right hand front seat. This car was only one of two in existence and driving in Japan is like the UK, on the left side of the road. I had never driven a right hand drive car before, but I felt more comfortable to see the brake pedal on the left and the accelerator pedal on the right. The only real difference was using my left hand to release the parking brake and move the shift lever to DRIVE.
I was excited to receive the invitation to test drive the new Nissan EV during its announcement with San Diego Gas and Electric in San Diego on Monday, March 23, 2009. This was to be a limited rollout using a “mule” and not the actual car, but I knew all that and still wanted to feel what it was like to drive it. I didn’t pay much attention to the style looks or interior of the car because Nissan is developing the final production model with a different body in Japan.
This electric vehicle was so quiet, I worried just a little about the absent minded driver who would accidentally step on the accelerator without realizing this quiet car was ready to go.
As I eased my foot into the accelerator I asked the company driver if I could floor it. He agreed and I looked for an opportunity. Not much distance at first because we started out on the short side of the course along the pier. The course was conveniently laid out such that the high speed long side would put me into the water if something failed and I couldn’t stop. Definitely not a golf cart, the accelerator had some real control. The car felt so comfortable that by the time I turned around and headed down the long side I had forgotten about driving from the right side.
The longer part of the course allowed a quick acceleration to 70 km/h (45 mph) on the speedometer before I tested the braking regeneration, not wanting to test the Port’s capability to recover me out of the water. Nissan’s more than 18 years of electric vehicle experience was evident by the control smoothness and no transmission design. Driving the car felt like an ordinary gasoline car with the extra spirit of a turbo kick after an initial start up.
I have driven many of the electrically propelled vehicles, including the fuel cell million-dollar prototypes, and I am familiar with the high torque off-the-line acceleration of electric motors. Nissan was successful in making this car feel like any other gasoline car I was used to driving on the road. I can’t say enough about the control system because I have observed how difficult that can be in an electric vehicle. It’s not a sports car, but neither will parents with kids have any trouble keeping up with traffic or staying out of the way.
The test mule prototype was a square bodied five passenger, four door, mini SUV that looked like an oversized bread box or a shrunken HUMMER. I saw the car take one trip around the pier track where I estimated the people load to be in excess of 700 pounds. The acceleration performance seemed to be the same as when only two of us were in the car. If the car handles the same empty or loaded, that’s HUGE.
Charging options are a standard 4 hour, special 26 minutes, or emergency to get me home. Nissan and SDG&E are working towards making available pre approved according-to-code installations through the county.
One thing for sure, the car recycles braking energy and the number of brake jobs will be few and far between.
How much is it going to cost? Nissan is acting coy, but probably around $30,000 plus or minus. Don’t go away yet; it qualifies for the $7500 EV tax credit, making it somewhat competitive with small hybrid electrics. Nissan says that the car will save money unless gasoline drops below $1.10 per gallon (fat chance of that ever happening again). I don’t believe the quoted 90 cents to “fill the tank”, but maybe SDG&E has something up its sleeve with special charging rates in the middle of the night using the smart meters now being installed around the San Diego area.
Ok, I’d like to have one. When can I get one? Nissan is planning to provide 100 fleet vehicles in San Diego through SDG&E. I saw conflicting reports on whether SDG&E was planning to use all 100 vehicles or would offer some of those vehicles to other fleets. Nissan would like that number to go to 1,000 in preparation for a full blown production and will be accepting “soft” fleet orders during the next 12 months for probable delivery in 2011. The general public won’t have its turn until 2012. If I can sell my gas guzzling high performance high maintenance Corvette Classic I might look for a way to get one of the fleet cars.