The growing number of plug-in electric cars — more than 96,000 bought in 2013 — may put a lot of new strain on the nation’s aging electrical distribution systems, like transformers and underground cables, especially at times of peak demand, according to University of Vermont (UVM) scientists. So they have created a novel solution, which they report on in the forthcoming March issue of IEEE Transactions on Smart Grid.
“The key to our approach is to break up the request for power from each car into multiple small chunks — into packets,” says Jeff Frolik, a professor in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences and co-author on the new study. This is similar to transmitting data packets on the Internet.
By using the nation’s growing network of “smart meters” — a new generation of household electric meters that communicate information back-and-forth between a house and the utility — the new approach would let a car charge for, say, five or ten minutes at a time, Frolik says, and then wait to make another request for power. If demand was low, it would continue charging, but if it was high, the car would have to wait.
“Most of the time, as long as people get charged by morning, they won’t care,” says UVM’s Paul Hines, an expert on power systems and co-author on the study. “By charging cars in this way, it’s really easy to let everybody share the capacity that is available on the grid.”
Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald