EVs And The Grid: Looking For A Smart Solution

Will a surge in electric vehicle adoption put the power grid–or at least portions of it–under stress? A lot of the big players in the sector seem to think so, and that has a companies at work trying to figure out a solution to the challenge.

Case in point: IBM, Honda and Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), who recently announced a they’ve partnered on a pilot program designed to facilitate communication between EVs and the grid and test if individual EVs can accurately receive and then respond to directions automatically generated as a result of grid conditions and the charge in the vehicle’s battery.

Honda Fit EV

image via Honda

The test program will also give utilities and other EV energy providers insight into ways of insuring that charging presents few problems or complications to EV owners, utilities, or the electricity infrastructure. Beginning with the Honda Fit EV, this pilot will utilize both grid and vehicle information to generate an individual charging plan using the communications system intrinsic in each Honda Fit EV and melding it with IBM’s cloud-based software platform. This conduit will then allow direct communication that could allow regional energy managers to adjust electrical output from various power plants during peak and non-peak periods, and inform EV drivers how to adapt vehicle charging based on grid conditions.

For example, the IBM EV platform can create a neighborhood or regional profile that notes how many EVs need charging in that area and how long it will take to deliver a full charge to all. It is this kind of predictive power that will enable grid managers to insure that EVs don’t trigger outages. In addition, the EV’s onboard navigation system could notify owners of the nearest charging station (lots of these in Illinois, as we recently noted), and the newly available EKZ Smartphone Application that we told you about last year can keep owners apprised of the vehicle’s charge level, range, location and current charging costs in real time – a cost the U.S. Department of Energy hopes to cut with a $7 million investment in R&D charger technology.