ARPA-E to host workshop on gensets for efficient small-scale distributed generation
USDA and DOE award $47M in R&D grants for biofuel, bioenergy and biobased product projects

Univ. of Southampton researchers develop auction-based online pricing mechanism for more efficient management of EV charging

Researchers at the University of Southampton (UK) have designed a pricing mechanism for electric vehicle charging based on an online auction protocol that makes it possible to charge EVs without overloading the local electricity network.

In a study based on the performance of currently available electric vehicles, performed by Dr. Valentin Robu and Dr. Sebastien Stein, the mechanism was shown to increase the number of electric vehicles that can be charged overnight, within a neighborhood of 200 homes, by as much as 40%.

A paper entitled “Online Mechanism Design for Electric Vehicle Charging” was presented at AAMAS 2011 – the Tenth Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems, and outlines a system in which electric vehicle owners use computerized agents to bid for the power to charge the vehicles and also organize time slots when a vehicle is available for charging.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are expected to place a considerable strain on local electricity distribution networks. If many vehicles charge simultaneously, they may overload the local distribution network, so their charging needs to be carefully scheduled.

—Dr. Alex Rogers, University of Southampton computer scientist and co-author

To address this issue, Rogers and his team designed a mechanism that allows vehicle owners to specify their requirements (for example, when they need the vehicle and how far they expect to drive). The system then automatically schedules charging of the vehicles’ batteries. The mechanism ensures that there is no incentive to game the system by reporting that the vehicle is need earlier than is actually the case, and those users who place a higher demand on the system are automatically charged more than those who can wait.

The mechanism leaves some available units of electricity un-allocated. This is counter-intuitive since it seems to be inefficient but it turns out to be essential to ensure that the vehicle owners don’t have to delay plugging-in or misreport their requirements, in an attempt to get a better deal.

—University of Southampton computer scientist Dr. Enrico Gerding, lead author


  • Gerding, E., Robu, V., Stein, S., Parkes, D., Rogers, A. and Jennings, N. (2011) Online Mechanism Design for Electric Vehicle Charging. In: The Tenth International Joint Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems (AAMAS 2011), 2-6 May 2011, Taipei, Taiwan. (In Press)



"The Tenth International Joint Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems (AAMAS 2011)"

Who ARE all these people and where do they get their funding from? An energy auction? Some people try to make a market where none is necessary. At least in the US the DOE confirms enough excess overnight electricity to charge 120 MILLION vehicles before one new power plant be built.

There will be daytime chargers and they will have to pay day rates. And in a very constrained grid with little excess capacity - this scheme could be useful. The max rate of charge for most of these systems is 6kW - so local drain would not be great unless everyone plugged in and charged at the very same time!


If EVs are used to commute to work then a lot of people will begin charging at the same time during the day.


It seems like charging at work is an 8 hour event. You do not need much over that time to make it home with margin to spare.

Nick Lyons

@SJC: Peak electricity demand on hot summer days is during the afternoon. Adding significant load at that time means adding generation from expensive, often dirty 'peaker' plants.

Charging over night, when demand is currently low is less of an issue than charging at work during the afternoon, when the grid may be maxed out, IMHO. Combining employee parking with local solar generation is one obvious solution.


I have no problem with employers providing solar parking awnings as well. I am aware of the load profile in the summer, but the cars are marginal demand. With a smart grid you make the charge profile for the cars last on the priority list. You also have wind resources that could be used in the afternoon.

It's quite likely that in some neighbourhoods, all vehicle owners will come home at the same time. If they also plug in at the same time, they may well exceed the capacity of the local distribution network.

It seems quite intuitive to allow users which are willing to pay more for their electricity to charge first.

The comments to this entry are closed.