What Do Electric Vehicles Mean For The Smart Grid?

by The Burns & McDonnell Team on October 19, 2011

Image via Tesla Motors

As energy efficiency and a smarter use of resources emerge as increasingly important issues for businesses and consumers, a number of technologies are slowly spreading.

Consider electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt or Tesla Roadster. EVs are an optimal replacement for cars with petroleum fuel-based engines, introducing a cleaner energy option for drivers.

Research shows that EV purchases are on the rise and, according to a post on The Daily Energy Report written by Donald Rickey, “… nearly every major automotive manufacturer has announced plans to deliver an EV model within the next three years. Federal funding is spurring investment in EV technology, and pilot projects to initiate the roll-out of EV charging infrastructure.”

Assuming that EV interest continues to increase and more consumers opt to purchase EVs, building adequate charging infrastructure is a critical step. With so many utility companies and municipalities working together to upgrade existing systems to the Smart Grid, it makes sense that EV charging infrastructure will be connected to the more efficient Smart Grid.

At first, it may seem counterintuitive to connect these EV charging stations to the Smart Grid. Won’t an increased need for power stretch the Smart Grid to its capacity and thereby deliver unsatisfactory service to customers?

The answer, according to a Pike Research study quoted by Rickey, is no.

“However, despite the increased need for electricity, the added demand of EVs will have minimal impact on grid reliability,” writes Rickey. “This is a result of the Smart Grid and smart EV charging solutions, which will enable utilities and end users to handle this surge in demand through more intelligent energy management.”

In fact, it’s that sort of intuitive energy management that makes the Smart Grid such an important issue. The evolved system can accommodate increased energy usage, which is one of the many reasons it’s becoming a go-to system for utility companies across the country. And by monitoring energy usage, Smart Grid-connected companies can identify and plan for peak usage, allowing a utility company to make necessary adjustments to ensure an uninterrupted supply of energy to all end users.

As Rickey writes, “This is a critical time in the development of the technology for EVs and charging infrastructure. Smart Grid-enabled EV charging infrastructure and the intelligent energy management practices it enables will play an integral role in driving adoption of EVs and easing their transition onto our electrical grid.”

What are your thoughts on the Smart Grid and, more specifically, electric vehicles? Is an EV purchase in your near future? And if not, what factors would need to change in order to prompt you to choose an EV?

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