Why Smart Charging is important for Electric Vehicles, part I

I had the opportunity to speak to Oregon’s Alternative Fuel Vehicles Infrastructure Working Group last week. The purpose of my presentation was to identify Smart Charging considerations as Oregon is planning and deploying electric vehicle charging stations.  How can Oregon prepare for mass adoption of EVs yet avoid unintended consequences such as local electrical grid congestion?

As part of the Governor’s climate change and sustainable transportation agenda, Governor Ted Kulongoski signed Executive Order 08-24 back on September 26, 2008.  The Order creates the Governor’s Alternative Fuel Vehicle Infrastructure Working Group, charged with developing the policies and alternative fuel infrastructure for Oregon in preparation for the next generation of electric and alternative fuel vehicles. 

To prepare companies and help Oregon citizens move to an alternative fuels transportation system, the executive order establishes a working group that will develop a plan to work with the private sector to build alternative fuel stations in Oregon by October 2010. The group will also provide a forum for Oregonians to make sure alternative fuels work for their communities, including establishing standards for residential charging infrastructure, and implementing a public awareness campaign to educate Oregonians about how to incorporate alternative fuel vehicles into their daily lives.

As a baseline scenario, an electric vehicle (EV) represents a load on the electrical grid just like a common appliance. Whenever an electric vehicle is plugged into the grid for charging, the car will charge the batteries until the batteries are full and then the battery charger will shut off. Individually it is not an issue for electric vehicles to charge in such a manner.  Yet what happens if thousands of cars are all charged at the same time?

Experts find adequate Grid Capacity for EVs, with Environmental Benefits

Though concerns have been raised about having adequate electrical generating capacity to fuel large fleets of electric vehicles, a joint study by Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), has shown adequate generating capacity exists nationwide, and further there are positive environmental benefits even considering several electricity generation portfolios and vehicle adoption scenarios. 

In general, emissions decline as electric and transportation sectors evolve, combined with overall improvements in air quality.  The addition of large fleets of electric vehicles should not have an adverse capacity impact with night-time (off peak) charging regimes.  Yet how can we ensure every charges at off-peak times?

Smart Charging facilitates off-peak EV charging

Smart charging involves the combination of EVs and the Smart Grid.  There are several classifications or levels of sophistication with Smart Charging, all summarized my presentation.  The solutions range from relatively straightforward ways to charge EVs with intelligence and control in the near term, to more sophisticated ways to utilize EV batteries to store energy and supply it back to the grid in the long term.

To avoid unintended consequences such as local distribution grid congestion and to encourage better integration with renewable energy resources, Oregon’s policy and strategy for EVs and EV charging infrastructure must provision for high penetration of electric vehicles.  While Oregon is positioning itself for an early-mover leadership position in electric vehicles, thus reducing greenhouse gasses, improving air quality and reducing dependence on oil imports, there are additional benefits by taking a leadership position to integrate electric vehicles and the Smart Grid.  More to follow in part 2…

Related posts:

Can the Smart Grid Enhance Sustainable Development in the Pacific Northwest?

Portland State University Hosts Interactive Conference to Explore if the Smart Grid Offers Hype or Hope for Northwest Communities

Join me and my classmates from Portland State University’s research seminar, Designing the Smart Grid for Sustainable Communities, at an interactive conference as we share our findings from our studies over the past six months.

 The “Smart Grid” has caught the attention of political, business, and community leaders from the White House to Northwest communities, environmentalists, and electric utilities-and for good reason. Its champions say it will deploy many of the technologies, concepts, and models behind the Internet to transform the electrical grid from a centralized network controlled by utilities, to one that embraces distributed resources and encourages more customer control over the cost and environmental impact of the power they consume. They claim the Smart Grid will offer many benefits: encouraging the growth and enhancing the value of renewable options; supporting energy efficiency; helping owners of homes, businesses, and factories save money and better manage their use of electricity; improving transmission efficiency and reducing power outages, blackouts and brownouts; accelerating the adoption of new technologies; creating more family-wage jobs; and more. Read more

Designing Sustainability: Transforming Supply Chains into Sustainability Circles, part 1

Only through deliberate design does a firm transform from a conventional supply chain into a sustainable value chain.  I define Sustainability Circles™ as a cyclical sustainability chain that encompasses the complete product lifecycle, as opposed to the traditional framework of a linear supply chain. 

I had the opportunity to speak at last year’s 2nd Annual Conference on Business & Sustainability at Portland State University, with the theme of Designing Sustainability.  This theme embraces the philosophy that design is the primary determinant of the social, environmental and financial impact of products, services, processes and business strategies. Deliberate forethought in conceptualizing and implementing sustainable business practices can significantly enhance social equity, reduce ecological harm and raise business value. 

My session track and panel discussion topic covered Operations and Supply Chain and my remarks covered how traditional supply chains as the status quo are changing and we will see an emerging emphasis on sustainability chains – with increasing attention being paid to reverse logistics and end-of-life considerations.  From there we need to move to a cyclical or regenerative model, consistent with Cradle-to-Cradle principles of “Waste makes FOOD” and closed loop design principles.  With a more systemic approach, we’ll need to move to thinking about this as a transformation to sustainability systems and thus redesigning our supply chains. 

Conventional Supply Chains

A conventional supply chain is typically a linear flow, optimized for one-way operations and local efficiencies only. Tracing the supply chain from the beginning, resources are extracted from nature by material suppliers. These raw materials are converted into component parts, and the component parts are assembled into end products and eventually are sold to the end user. Often there is little consideration for end-of-life or more typically there is reliance on a completely different entity or industry for product disposal at the end-of-life.

As an example, in the current automotive end-of-life dismantlers remove selected high value components and fluids are drained. Then the car is literally crushed, shredded and destroyed – this takes a tremendous amount of energy to reduce a car into fist sized pieces. After shredding, the metal and non-metallic pieces are separated with the metals sorted based on ferrous and non-ferrous content and often sent long distances for recycling. The remaining shredder residue being sent to landfills as “daily cover.” Although much of the content is recycled, it is still an energy intensive and wasteful process.

A Better Way

There is a better way. Though before we move on to describe the transformation into a sustainability chain there needs to be more consideration for the lifecycle assessment, including not only use (and the product should be designed for a long and useful life; for example, designed for reliability and durability).  And as things eventually wear out or fail (which they will), there needs to be a conscious design for serviceability. By this I am referring to the ability to easily repair, replace and service the product. And of course there needs to be a design for efficiency throughout the product’s lifetime.

To be continued in my next post on this topic…..

Planning the Smart Grid for Sustainable Communities – Interactive Conference

An Interactive Conference co-sponsored by

Portand General Electric and Climate Solutions

Join faculty and students of Portland State University and other business and community leaders for an interactive conference on how the technologies, concepts and models associated with the Smart Grid can support sustainable communities in the Pacific Northwest. Questions we will consider at the conference:

  • What is the Smart Grid, both in terms of technologies and capabilities?
  • In what respects can the Smart Grid aid sustainability and why?
  • What metrics show progress towards sustainability?
  • How might we think about the costs and benefits of the Smart Grid, particularly costs and benefits that do not relate directly to electricity production and delivery?
  • How can the Smart Grid support renewable energy resources, both large central-station wind and solar and smaller resources located on an individual site or community level?
  • How do we engage the community in the design, planning, and implementation of Smart Grid to ensure that we fully use its capabilities and achieve the outcomes we hoped for?
Who:   Leaders in Business, IT and Communications, Regulators, Government, Utilities, Smart Grid Technology Vendors, Planners, Engineers, Architects, Home and Building Owners
When:   June 18, 8:30-5:00pm with lunch Registration opens at 7:30am Keynote presentations begin at 8:30 am
Where:   Portland State University, University Place, 310 SW Lincoln St., Portland OR