Companies like Ecotality and Coulomb have said smart charging will be vital to integrating electric vehicles into the grid. But the battery-swapping company Better Place is taking the argument a step further, saying in a new report that without a central network operator, charging the 1 million electric vehicles (EVs) that President Obama wants on the road could drive up U.S. wholesale energy costs by $750 million annually.
“With smart charging, a central network operator is able to leverage dynamic wholesale energy prices to optimize the entire fleet’s charging at the lowest possible cost and impact to the grid and the consumer,” said Hugh McDermott, Better Place vice president of utility and smart grid alliances. And as it happens, Better Place’s battery-swapping system would tie in nicely with a central network operator, unlike standard charging stations.
Better Place, which partnered with the regional transmission operator PJM on the study, arrived at its conclusions by extrapolating data from the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore areas. Better Place said taking advantage of time-of-use pricing by smart-charging at home or elsewhere when electricity prices drop could cut consumer costs by around 10 percent, but wholesalers would still take a hit because “multiple actors responding synchronously to the same price signal will cause rapid changes in load.”
The full report [PDF] is available to review. While Better Place has an obvious self-interest in promoting its business model, the report is in line with an earlier warning from Pike Research that suggested utility companies are unprepared for the potential stress electric vehicles could place on the grid, not to mention the need to have the electricity come from clean sources like solar or wind.