Study shows hybrid effect on power distribution

March 12, 2008

A growing number of plug-in hybrid electric cars and trucks could require major new power generation resources or none at all— depending on when people recharge their automobiles.

A recent Oak Ridge National Laboratory study, featured in the current issue of the ORNL Review examined how an expected increase in ownership of hybrid electric cars and trucks will affect the power grid depending on what time of day or night the vehicles are charged.

Some assessments of the impact of electric vehicles assume owners will charge them only at night, said Stan Hadley of ORNL’s Cooling, Heating and Power Technologies Program.

“That assumption doesn’t necessarily take into account human nature,” said Hadley, who led the study. “Consumers’ inclination will be to plug in when convenient, rather than when utilities would prefer. Utilities will need to create incentives to encourage people to wait. There are also technologies such as ‘smart’ chargers that know the price of power, the demands on the system and the time when the car will be needed next to optimize charging for both the owner and the utility that can help too.”

In an analysis of the potential impacts of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles projected for 2020 and 2030 in 13 regions of the United States, ORNL researchers explored their potential effect on electricity demand, supply, infrastructure, prices and associated emission levels. Electricity requirements for hybrids used a projection of 25 percent market penetration of hybrid vehicles by 2020 including a mixture of sedans and sport utility vehicles. Several scenarios were run for each region for the years 2020 and 2030 and the times of 5 p.m. or 10:00 p.m., in addition to other variables.

The report found that the need for added generation would be most critical by 2030, when hybrids have been on the market for some time and become a larger percentage of the automobiles Americans drive. In the worst-case scenario—if all hybrid owners charged their vehicles at 5 p.m., at six kilowatts of power—up to 160 large power plants would be needed nationwide to supply the extra electricity, and the demand would reduce the reserve power margins for a particular region’s system.

The best-case scenario occurs when vehicles are plugged in after 10 p.m., when the electric load on the system is at a minimum and the wholesale price for energy is least expensive. Depending on the power demand per household, charging vehicles after 10 p.m. would require, at lower demand levels, no additional power generation or, in higher-demand projections, just eight additional power plants nationwide.

Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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5 comments

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mrlewish
3 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2008
This is simple. Have a whole house UPS that can feed the plug in. charge that at the cheapest times. Good for short blackouts also
Soylent
4 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2008
"...whole house UPS..."

That's expensive, wasteful and solves very little.

The battery in the car is already like a whole house UPS as long as the car is plugged into the charger.

With flexible pricing and some model for electricity price forcasting based on past trends you could build a car battery capable of figuring out roughly how best to recharge given when it will next be used.
MGraser
5 / 5 (1) Mar 13, 2008
What's interesting, too, is that if everyone is charging their vehicles at night, the price of electricity during that time will also go up. It still makes more sense than everyone trying to power up during peak hours and taxing our systems; but, I'm just pointing out that when demand for electricity for vehicles increases during off-peak hours, the price of electricity during that time will also go up since it will no longer be off-peak anymore.
DGBEACH
5 / 5 (1) Mar 13, 2008
The best scenario would be an interactive charging system which, a) Has GPS-assisted time-keeping abilities, b) Is capable of wirelessly receiving fare-tables from utility providers, c) is wirelessly tied into your house's smart system, so that it knows when it can turn on.

With this type of setup each house's consumption would be stabilized.
fooljoe
not rated yet Mar 19, 2008
it's brilliant how so much is being made of what might happen when everybody drives evs while no evs are anywhere near being made available for sale to the average american consumer. it's painfully obvious evs are the best solution for replacing our transportation fleet. let's stop debating what might happen in 2030 and start making them.

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