Study on preparing power grids for EVs publishes results

The first results have been announced from a major cross-industry project investigating the impact of a mass roll-out of electric vehicles (EVs).

Key aspects of reports published include the development of a universal plug-and-play electrical and e-commerce interface for vehicle charging, the roles of smart metering and smart grids and Europe-wide research into consumer attitudes and behaviours relating to EV applications.

The 4.5 million euro MERGE project began in early 2010 and involves 16 partners drawn from utilities regulators, businesses and universities with interests in the power generation, automotive, electronic commerce and hybrid and electric vehicle sectors across the entire European Union.

It is a two-year research initiative that aims to prepare Europe to take full advantage of increases in both the use of EVs in towns and cities, and the increasing proportion of the region's electrical power generating mix composed of intermittent renewable resources such as wind, solar and wave energy.

Some of the initial work has been on early model development exercises that will enable the power grid operators to carry out more in-depth and detailed grid-scale modelling and simulation activities through the remainder of the project.

One of the project partners is engineering consultancy Ricardo.

Commenting on the announcement of the first results, Prof. Neville Jackson, Ricardo group chief innovation and technology officer, said: "We believe that there is much to learn about the impact and potential usage patterns of electric vehicles. Analysis of re-charging requirements for six European countries shows that, whilst there are some national variations, a 10 percent penetration of plug-in vehicles corresponds to a 10 percent increase in peak electricity demand using a 'dumb' re-charging scenario where users plug-in their vehicles returning home in the early evening.

"Analysis from the survey has shown that 70 percent of potential users would prefer to charge their vehicle at home and 20 percent at work. It also revealed that despite the relatively low cost of re-charging, users were still highly motivated to make use of any low cost tariffs that may be available during off-peak demand. The full results of these studies will provide extremely robust data and models for later and more in-depth analysis by the MERGE project partners."

The first of the four studies for which reports have now been published was carried out by Ricardo and Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin), and was an investigation of the requirements for both the power and information and communication technology (ICT) aspects of a plug-and-play interface between EVs and their charging infrastructure.

The second study – carried out by Iberdrola and Red Eléctrica of Spain, INESC Porto of Portugal, Power Public Corporation of Greece, TU Berlin, Electricity Supply Board of Ireland, and InSpire of Norway – was intended to specify smart metering systems for EVs.

A third study examined how micro-grid concepts could be used together with advanced control technologies in a smart grid implementation of EV charging, both individually and in clusters of vehicles. That was carried out by INESC Porto, Cardiff University, the National Technical University of Athens, Public Power Corporation of Greece, Ricardo and Red Eléctrica.

The final study for which results have been published focuses on the identification of traffic patterns and human behaviours relating to the use of EVs. Carried out jointly by e-business intelligence provider IMR World, Ricardo and the TU Berlin, this study investigated how conventional vehicles are currently used and the potential impact the widespread introduction of EVs would have on the grid.

An additional report will shortly be released based on a study carried out solely by Ricardo within the MERGE project, which aims to establish a methodology to enable grid operators to model the energy storage performance of grid connected EVs. This work will include a review of current and probable future EV battery technology, battery simulation model development, and assessment of implications for charging stations and vehicle battery management systems design and operation.

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