We had the opportunity to work with Caltech recently on analytics for their smart EV charge grid. The following piece is a glimpse into their Smart Charging EV technology that has the potential to transform EV charging networks across parking structures.
While electric vehicles are poised to breakout into the mainstream, the lack of an ubiquitous charging infrastructure remains an impediment to the ease and accessibility of EV cars.
Caltech has developed an Adaptive Charging Network that allows garages to significantly expand their EV footprint, without expensive electric grid upgrades.
First, let’s look at the state of play within the EV market.
By the Numbers
Currently, there are nearly 500,000 highway capable plug-in electric vehicles in the United States. California is the bastion of Electric Vehicles sales in the U.S., accounting for over half of all plugin electric vehicles sold in the United States, and 3.1% of all vehicles sold within the state.
Tesla unveiled its Model 3 amid much fanfare earlier in the year. A whopping 373,000 pre-orders shortly thereafter, Tesla has accelerated its production plan of 500k cars per year in 2018, two years ahead of their own long standing plan. All major car manufactures are also getting in the act, with billions of dollars in EV investment from the likes of BMW, Mercedes Benz, GM, Ford and others.
The Obama administration has also announced plans to accelerate EV adoption in the United States, with upto $4.5 billion in loan guarantees.
So, all signs indicate that we are at the cusp of EV adoption breaking into the mainstream. For EVs to be mass market, however, consumers need convenient and affordable charging infrastructure to be on par with gasoline powered vehicles of today.
The Infrastructure Problem
EV charging takes a significant amount of electricity, to the tune of 70 desktop computers simultaneously for a single EV charge.
Parking lots are a logical place for EV charging networks, particularly for day-to-day, commute → park scenarios. However, parking structures are not well equipped for a large number of EV stations, as it requires expensive upgrades to the electricity infrastructure. As a result you’ll typically find only a handful of EV ports in supported parking structures.
What if garages were able to offer large number of EV slots, without requiring electric grid updates, and interchangeably use it for general parking for gasoline powered cars?
Enter Caltech’s Adaptive Charging Network.
Adaptive Charging Network
Caltech’s Adaptive Charging Network, built by the team lead by Professor Steven Low, uses a smart algorithm that coordinates the charging schedule with the electrical infrastructure.
Based on a variety of factors including spots occupied, vehicle amps, charged vehicles, number of hours required for each vehicle and other factors, it determines the optimum charge associated to each spot.
The system is currently used within the California campus, providing an unprecedented 54 charging stations, with minimal impact to their electrical infrastructure.
Each charging station has an ultrasonic sensor that transmits the status of the parking spot. This opens up the spots for general parking while also leaving dedicated slots for EV charging based on demand.
Currently, the stations consume 200 Kilo Watt Hours/day, a small fraction of (0.00006%) of Caltech’s overall energy usage. 30% of electricity per station comes from carbon free renewable sources.
Two transformers with an overall capacity of 300KW handles the load with charge dynamically allocated to vehicles based upon need.
A touch screen system allows users to define their vehicle type, length of parking time as well as miles required to reach their destination.
The system collects a range of sensor data from each of its charging stations and stored into NoSQL databases. Using Cloud9 Charts, this data is distilled to determine realtime availability of parking spots, and whether the occupied stations are currently charging or done charging, as well as displayed via real-time dashboards on TV screens across the campus.
“Range Anxiety” is one of the primary barriers for mass market EV adoption. Charging infrastructure must be readily available before consumers fully embrace the EV movement.
Innovative solutions like Caltech’s Adaptive Charging Network, along with dedicated charging stations brings us a step closer towards easily accessible, convenient and cost-effective charging infrastructure.