Electric vehicles are about to explode in popularity, with car companies as diverse as Ford, Tesla, Fisker, and Toyota working on bringing new models to market in the next few years. But with the growth of these vehicles comes a problem: how can everyone in, say, New York City plug in their cars at night for recharging without overloading the electrical grid? The Smart Charger Controller may provide a solution.
The controller, developed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, automatically recharges vehicles when electricity is cheapest and the demand for power is at its lowest. Vehicle owners can program the controller to charge at a specific time of day or night or can set an electricity price point. The controller gets price information by using Zigbee wireless technology that communicates with the grid. So if the device finds that electricity is cheapest when you’re fast asleep at 3 a.m., it will begin charging automatically. If the grid becomes strained while your car is charging, the controller holds off on sipping electricity until the strain is relieved.
The DOE’s controller could save electric car owners up to $150 a year in electricity costs. But more importantly, the device acts as a safety valve for the grid by instantly relieving the stress of too many cars trying to charge at the same time. The DOE is working to license the Smart Charger Controller with commercial companies, so stay tuned for more information about the device’s availability.