EV Week: Electric Vehicle Charging: A Pilot to Turn “Challenge” into “Opportunity” « A Smarter Planet Blog
By Jonathan Marshall, Chief, External Communications
Pacific Gas and Electric Company
Electric vehicle (EV) owners and electric utilities may soon enjoy a much closer and more fulfilling relationship than traditional car owners have with gas stations, thanks to a new pilot project announced today by IBM, Honda Motors, and Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). This collaboration aims to demonstrate the ability to optimize the charge schedule for each customer’s EV battery so that the needs of customers and the electric grid are satisfied on an ongoing basis. That’s still a stretch for most utilities.
When the typical power engineer hears “electric vehicle,” he or she usually thinks: “challenge.” A plug-in vehicle can draw as much power as three homes in the more temperate parts of California. An enthusiastic bunch of early adopters could potentially overload local circuits if they all charge up at the same time in the same neighborhood.
But PG&E is thinking instead, “opportunity.” For one thing, we have a growing number of clean electric vehicles in our own fleet, from Chevy Volts to a new class of extended-range pickup trucks from Via Motors. And we know that widespread adoption of EVs throughout California will help the state meet its ambitious clean-air goals.
For another, we believe there’s great potential for using the latest “smart grid” technology to facilitate vehicle charging at night, when demand is low. By making use of underutilized generation and grid resources at off-peak times, EVs can help utilities make more efficient use of their assets and spread costs over a wider load without overtaxing the system.
PG&E demonstrated last year, in the first utility test of smart charging, that it could control vehicle charging through its SmartMeter™ infrastructure. But in a competitive marketplace, many customers may want to put control of their charging in other hands—such as the vehicle manufacturer or another trusted vendor. The whole process may someday be controlled by a third-party app on your smart phone.