One of the complaints by naysayers of electric vehicles is concern over charging the vehicle batteries. They say EVs will strain the U.S. power grid with the increased demand. (Despite research to the contrary.) AeroVironment is looking to at least partially alleviate such concerns. The company, which develops EV power systems as well as unmanned aircraft used by the military, is licensing PNNL’s Grid Friendly EV Charger Controller technology, offered up by Battelle, for this purpose.
According to company representatives, the controller monitors the power grid to determine if alternating current (AC) is available and viable enough to charge a vehicle’s battery. If there’s a sudden decrease in available AC caused by, for example, increased household usage, the controller will immediately cease charging the battery until conditions return to normal. Such a system also lowers energy bills for EV owners since it can charge batteries during non-peak times.
Battelle is a nonprofit research company that is based in Columbus, OH. It also runs the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) located in Richland, WA. Battelle has worked with the DOE in the past as well in developing air-conditioning systems that use water instead of harmful chemicals.
Alec Brooks, chief technology officer at AeroVironment’s business division, says, “First, reducing the cost of integrating variable renewable generation reduces the electricity costs for all ratepayers. Second, plug-in cars can be powered by renewable generation that might not have been possible to add to the power grid without the charging rate flexibility offered by vehicles and this technology. Third, the reduced cost of electricity to plug-in vehicle drivers will further improve on the cost advantage of driving on electricity as compared to gasoline.”
AeroVironment is offering its Level II charging station prototypes for testing purposes. Note that a PNNL study had determined the U.S. grid could power around 70 percent of all light-duty vehicles (e.g., electric cars, some trucks, etc.) if battery charging was moderated by technologies like its EV charger controller.