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GridPoint and GM Demonstrate Smart Charging Capabilities

At the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) conference in Washington, DC, GridPoint and GM are teaming to demonstrate the ability to actively manage plug-in vehicle load. In real-time, GridPoint technology is simultaneously managing the power flow to a fleet of plug-in vehicle resources, including a Chevy Volt battery pack located at GM’s Battery Lab in Warren, Mich., and a pool of simulated electric vehicle resources.

GridPoint software enables electric vehicles to be grid-aware, allowing the timing and pace of charging to be adaptively controlled to meet the needs of both drivers and the grid. Within parameters set by vehicle owners, utilities can charge vehicles in a manner that optimizes the grid—charging when renewable energy is available or when grid energy usage is low; thereby reducing grid stress and carbon emissions. During peak periods, utilities can also control the rate of charging to reduce demand spikes on the grid. (Earlier post.)

By embedding GridPoint’s software in electric vehicles, we enable utilities to offer reduced charging costs to customers and allow clean energy, such as wind and solar power, to be used as a source for recharging vehicles. Additionally, we help utilities eliminate the need to build new power plants that would otherwise be required to support the mass adoption of electric vehicles.

—Tony Posawatz, Volt Vehicle Line Director, General Motors

Consumers who enroll in a utility’s charging program could receive significantly reduced charging rates, thereby reducing the overall cost of electric vehicle ownership. Additionally, the promotion of lower electric fuel costs offered by utility charging programs is expected to accelerate electric vehicle sales.

Posawatz and Karl Lewis, Chief Strategy Officer of GridPoint, delivered a plenary talk at the conference.

Leading utilities have initiated smart charging field trials to better understand the impact plug-in electric vehicles will have in their service areas. GridPoint’s software is currently controlling the charging behavior of converted plug-in Toyota Priuses and Ford Escapes in projects led by Xcel Energy, Duke Energy, Progress Energy, Austin Energy and Seattle City Light. These engagements originated with Seattle-based V2Green, acquired by GridPoint in September.



While we like the sound of this initially - there are concerns. The utilities clearly want to take more control of your domestic energy use. Utility control of your EV charging behavior does more than mitigate grid demand - which will be their stance. It locks a customer into long term subscription based contracts for EV energy supplies.

The effect of a subscription-based charge structure is to create loyal customers for utils - not by consumer choice, but by contract. Similar in form to the subscription base models for telcos, wireless, and cable/IP services. IF their offer of lower electric rates in exchange for contract charging holds - without regular price increases hidden in the contract - this may be a service of value to some EV owners.

On the other hand, being able to CHOOSE (for our liberal friends this is a CHOICE issue) where and when you charge your EV/PHEV is important to a healthy energy market. Today, a half dozen oil companies compete for your gasoline business - this drives prices down and customer service up. As we move away from the petroleum economy we should encourage new energy businesses to compete for your energy purchases. For example, in the southwest where there is good solar potential - an indy energy guy might want to build a small wind and solar farm to supply energy for a four bay charge station. This guy, given capital amortization could sell his energy at a cost lower than your util - and be fully green/sustainable while doing so. And be providing jobs for the local community.

We don't want to adopt ANY smart-charge standards too soon. There will be absolutely NO problem charging the small volume of EVs over the next ten years. Most EV owners will charge at home overnight following well-established patterns with chargeable consumer electronics. And for the next decade it's PHevs not EVs.

While we applaud the idea behind components of smart-charging - we must be circumspect about how much control of electric infrastructure is given away to big utilities. The best way to avoid a repeat of the petroleum energy monopoly is to demand DIVERSITY in our energy infrastructure. Encourage small business to become energy suppliers; develop new state of the art energy resources; move residential houses to co-generation and Residential Power Units that will lower grid demand by 30% over ten years.

NOW is the time to watch very carefully how the new energy infrastructure is mapped out. The key, as in equitable social structures, is DIVERSITY. The more alternative energy operators we create - the stronger our infrastructure, the more jobs we create, greater security and potential to avoid a repeat of the petroleum lesson.

Specific to GridPoint's system would be for a customer selectable level of use. If you choose to subscribe to the GridPoint program this week - you may get a cost-savings. But if you have a couple long distance trips to make and need to re-charge on the fly, turn the program OFF and pay for the energy as needed. Remember - it's a CHOICE issue.

Henry Gibson

PHEVs never EVs. Every new coal fired power plant should be built right at the coal mine and use cleaner burning techology that captures CO2. At the same time they should also build methanol from coal production facilities. Methanol can be burned directly in PHEVs or converted to gasoline or diesel first. The US government should subsidize the capital costs of such facilities by giving very low cost loans until there are enough such plants to supply all of the fuel needed by the military and government. The government should be required to buy all of its fuel from these facilities to guarantee that they will always be operational. The cost of government fuel would then never be subject to speculation.

There are known catalysts that convert methanol to gasoline, and it is likely that catalysts also exist or can be created to convert Methanol to the jetfuel that has become the standard military fuel. Methanol can be stored for decades if not centuries without substantial change.

The requirement for PHEVs instead of BEVs also eliminates the fear in the public that is being promoted by anti BEV people that the grid is to weak and polluted to be counted on for power. A simple sealed timer and meter will give people access to cheap night power and they can plug in somewhere else where expensive prime power is available if needs be. There will not be enough EVs of any kind on the road for a very long time to even begin to compete with the electrical demand for Air-conditioners.

No PHEV should be required to need more than the standard plug at any time. They might also be equipped to use other plugs and voltages as well. Ground fault protectors are adequate protection along with the standards grounding requirements. There is far more danger in operating the car than there is in connecting the charger.

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