Plug-In Electric Vehicle Consumption Could Pose a Threat to Electric Grid

First Posted: Feb 21, 2014 04:25 PM EST

Overconsumption of anything could create a problem. Right now, the high prevalence of gas-powered vehicles is causing a higher demand for oil and scientists believe they're worsening the climate change issue as well. Could electric powered vehicles pose an issue if over-consumed?

Over 96,000 plug-in electric cars were purchased in the United States last year, an 84% increase from 2012. Similarly, Vermont experienced a 200% increase in electric vehicle purchases in the last year. This is obviously a step in the right direction in terms of oil consumption and air pollution, but how will industry experts plan for the unprecedented widespread use of a new form of electricity?

There are bound to be times of peak demand for car re-charging if/when we arrive at a time period of electric cars being the new status quo. People are going to need to recharge either before or after work, which could prove to be an overwhelming simultaneous consumption of electricity.  Scientists at the University of Vermont are using their foresight to solve such future problems.

A team of UVM scientists, including Pooya Rezaei, Paul Hines, and Jeff Frolik, plans to publish a report in IEEE Transactions on Smart Grid on how to potentially mend the possible threat to the electric grid. Frolik is a professor in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences and co-author of the study.

"The key to our approach is to break up the request for power from each car into multiple small chunks - into packets," he said in this UVM article. "By charging cars in this way, it's really easy to let everybody share the capacity that is available on the grid," added Professor Hines.

The researchers suggest that cars would charge for a specific amount of time at the car-charging "smart meters." The whole concept is based on supply and demand. If demand was low, the car would be permitted to charge for a longer amount of time, but if demand was high, the car could only charge for a certain amount of time before having to get back in line and wait to receive more charging.

This is reminiscent of the gas crisis back during Jimmy Carter's presidency, but this patent-pending idea seeks to avoid such a crisis and nip the problem in the bud before it becomes a bigger concern.

To read more about the study, visit this University of Vermont article.

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