Electric Cars May Change How the Power Grid Operates

CMU study finds that letting the utility decide when and where to recharge an electric car can save the owner from $70-120 annually on their power bill.

Published: 24-Jan-2014

Electricity, like gasoline, is mostly available at whenever the customer wants it, in whatever quantity is needed. But as their numbers increase, electric cars could potentially demand enormous amounts of power. Meeting that demand at a time when the electric system is already fully loaded could be expensive if it requires construction of new power plants – specially purposed for handling peak demand – that would be needed only a few hundred hours a year.

But electric cars could be part of the solution instead of part of the problem, according to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. In fact, if electric vehicles arrive in big numbers, they could be coming at just the right time for the electric power system, the researchers say. The reason is that the grid is increasingly supplied by intermittent sources of energy – especially wind – and battery charging could be a form of demand that the grid operators could schedule.

In a paper recently published in Applied Energy, the academic journal, the three authors argue that if vehicle charging can be scheduled at the power system’s convenience, the cost of providing service can be cut in half.

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