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Agreement will lead to grid-friendly electric vehicle charging

Charging technology may help speed up adoption of plug-in electric vehicles

March 06, 2013 Share This!

  • AeroVironment, Inc. has licensed a technology from PNNL that will allow widespread adoption of plug-in electric vehicles without negatively impacting the electrical grid. The PNNL technology tells a vehicle's battery charger when to start and stop charging based upon existing conditions on the electrical grid. AeroVironment will use a portion of the licensed technology in a new prototype version of its Level II charging systems.

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RICHLAND, Wash. – A technology that will allow widespread adoption of plug-in electric vehicles without negatively impacting the electrical grid is the subject of a commercial license agreement between Battelle and AeroVironment, Inc., of Monrovia, Calif. The technology may also ultimately result in lower costs for plug-in electric vehicle owners. 

Battelle operates the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash. 

AeroVironment will use a portion of the licensed technology in a new prototype version of its Level II charging systems.

While electric vehicles will ultimately reduce the nation's dependency on oil, some are concerned that millions of electric cars on the road will threaten the stability of the electrical grid. Developed at PNNL, the Grid Friendly EV Charger Controller technology tells the car's battery charger when to start and stop charging based upon existing conditions on the electrical grid.  Since electric vehicles can now be charged when electricity is most readily available, the technology could translate into lower bills for vehicle owners and a more stable grid.

AeroVironment's new prototype EV charging station, incorporating the PNNL technology, will help stabilize the electrical grid by continuously monitoring the grid's alternating current, or AC, frequency and varying the vehicle charging rate in response. If an unexpected event on the grid causes a rapid drop in the AC frequency, the charging system will stop charging, providing a grid "shock absorber." Under normal conditions, this stabilizing technology will be particularly important as the power grid is expected to rely more and more on variable renewable resources such as wind and solar technologies. 

An earlier PNNL study found America's existing power grid could meet the needs of about 70 percent of all U.S. light-duty vehicles if battery charging was managed to avoid new peaks in electricity demand.  

"If a million owners plug in their vehicles to recharge after work, it could cause a major strain on the grid," said PNNL lead engineer Michael Kintner-Meyer. "The Grid Friendly Controller could prevent those peaks in demand from plug-in vehicles and enable our existing grid to be used more evenly. And our studies have shown that those who use the technology could save $150 or more a year on their electricity bill, and they could potentially receive rebates for providing shock-absorbing services to the grid operator," Kintner-Meyer added.

"These technologies will result in a triple-win," said Alec Brooks, chief technology officer of AeroVironment's EES business segment. "First, reducing the cost of integrating variable renewable generation reduces the electricity costs for all ratepayers. Second, plug-in cars can be powered by renewable generation that might not have been possible to add to the grid without the charging rate flexibility offered by vehicles and this technology. Third, the reduced cost of electricity to plug-in vehicle drivers will further improve on the cost advantage of driving on electricity as compared to gasoline."

"Vehicle charging infrastructure is important for the market adoption of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles," said Dan Ton, DOE's program manager of Smart Grid Research and Development. "We need charging stations and we need them to be intelligent in order to work with smart vehicles and smart grid infrastructure to avoid potential strain on the grid and to provide flexible billing transactions for energy purchases and grid services."

Prototypes of the new AeroVironment charging system are available for beta testing. The prototypes include Bluetooth wireless connectivity for data streaming and local control functions. For more information, contact AeroVironment at sales@avinc.com.


AeroVironment is a technology solutions provider that designs, develops, produces, operates and supports an advanced portfolio of electric transportation solutions and electric-powered Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). AeroVironment's power cycling and test systems provide EV developers and EV battery manufacturers with market-leading simulation and cycling capabilities. AeroVironment's industrial electric vehicle charging systems support thousands of electric materials handling vehicles in mission-critical supply chains for Fortune 500 enterprises. AeroVironment's comprehensive EV charging solutions include EV home charging, public charging, fast charging, data collection, grid-integrated communications and complete installation, training and support services for consumers, automakers, utilities, government agencies and businesses. Agencies of the U.S. Department of Defense and allied military services use the company's electric-powered, hand-launched unmanned aircraft systems to provide situational awareness to tactical operating units through real-time, airborne reconnaissance, surveillance and communication. More information is available at www.avinc.com and www.evsolutions.com.

Tags: Energy, Technology Transfer and Commercialization, Energy Efficiency, EVs, Smart Grid

Interdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America's most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. Founded in 1965, PNNL employs 4,300 staff and has an annual budget of about $950 million. It is managed by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. As the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information on PNNL, visit the PNNL News Center, or follow PNNL on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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