EVs and Smart Meters Seek a Common Language

By · December 04, 2012

Establishing communications pathways would enable a vehicle's energy consumption to be balanced with other home energy use and minimize the cost of electricity for transportation.
For several years EV charging equipment companies have been discussing designs for enabling their products to talk with smart meters and other home energy equipment. Establishing communications pathways would enable a vehicle's energy consumption to be balanced with other home energy use and minimize the cost of electricity for transportation. Of the many wireless and wired options for these communications, interest in the ZigBee wireless protocol has grown of late.

Australian company Percepscion recently unveiled what the company is calling the first EV charger to be certified to work with the ZigBee communication standard. The ChargeIQ unit can be programmed to enable charging at specific price targets or to respond to grid signals relayed by the smart meters when the power grid is under stress. Other EV charging equipment companies including BTC Power are also developing products with ZigBee capabilities.

This communication link benefits grid operators and EV owners alike. Eventually, EV chargers in a region could slow or stop charging at times of peak demand, as part of regional demand response systems that could prevent blackouts or protect grid equipment from being overloaded

However, while getting the smart grid industry to agree on a single standard is often a challenge, corralling multiple industries is far more problematic. EV charging and automotive companies have been considering power line communications, local area networks, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, and cellular as options for vehicle to infrastructure messaging. Thanks to its use by some smart meters as well as endorsement by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), ZigBee is a leading contender. Smart grid applications company Silver Spring Networks is working on integrating EV charging equipment via ZigBee, as highlighted in Pike Research's Electric Vehicle Charging Equipment report.

However, the SAE has also incorporated power line messaging between vehicles and stationary equipment into its set of charging equipment standards. Several automakers have begun work on power line communications via the HomePlug Green PHY standard, so a combination of wired and wireless communications is likely.

Startup Greenivity is looking to reduce the cost and complexity of these communications options by integrating two on a single chip. The Hybrii GV7011 chip bundles both ZigBee and HomePlug Green PHY, allowing equipment manufacturers to cover their bases.

While the communications picture is unclear today, in the end, EV drivers won't care where or how the magic happens. They'll just be happy if the grid gets a tad more stable and they can save a few pennies when they charge their vehicles.

Comments

· · 1 year ago

@John Gartner

Your statement, "... EV drivers won't care where or how the magic happens. They'll just be happy if the grid gets a tad more stable and they can save a few pennies when they charge their vehicles....." is very misinformed, at least as regards my utility here in Upstate NY, British-Owned National Grid.

They have a proposal with our Public Service Commission to INCREASE rates, to request payment for the 50% not paid for by the Federal Government (My taxes at work Against Me again), to implement a Zigby based Smart Meter Program. In the proposal, they specifically state rates will *NOT* decrease nor Service Improve. Rates will have to obviously go up to pay for the 50% not paid for by the gov't.

The casual observer could reasonably ask, "Why the Heck should my rates go up if you are not going to improve Service?"

I understand that you can't be an unbiased source on this, since obviously this is part of your income. But its just another example of more $$$ being forcibly extracted from me, and it hinders EV adoption, since if there no longer remains a cost advantage to operating an EV due to raising electricity rates, people in general will not purchase them.

The easy solution to mitigating demand (which is a non-problem these days anyway), is time-of-day metering to incentivize customers to level out their demands, without coercion. Its been very successfully used by some private utilities for the past 70-80 years, however unfortunately for me, not by mine.

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