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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.
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