The Germans seem to believe, in part anyway, that electro mobility makes sense only if car batteries are charged using electricity from renewable energy sources. But the supply of green electricity is not always adequate. An intelligent charging station can help, by adapting the recharging times to suit energy supply and network capacity.

Germany is rich or getting poor, depending on your view of economics with aims to have one million electric vehicles – powered by energy from renewable sources – on the road by 2020. And, within ten years, the German environment ministry expects “green electricity” to make up 30 percent of all power consumed.

From a math perspective the proposition is it would be possible to achieve CO2-neutral electro mobility. But, in reality, it is a difficult goal to attain. As more and more solar and wind energy is incorporated into the German power grid, the proportion of electricity that cannot be controlled by simply pressing a button is on the increase. In addition, there is a growing risk that the rising number of electric vehicles will trigger extreme surges in demand during rush hour.

They are thinking ahead over there.  This – from a society that not so long ago was busily decommissioning nuclear – but now is looking to build more nuclear stations.  Reality wins one there.

Dominik Noeren of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems says, “What we need is a smart grid that carries information in addition to power.  The information transport equipment is available now.  Noeren explains the structure of the grid has to change from a push (information feedback) system based on energy demand to a pull (information feedout) system based on production output. In Noeren’s opinion, “electric cars are best equipped to meet this challenge.” Introduced in large numbers, they have the capacity to store a lot of energy. On average, a car is parked for at least 20 hours out of 24. That is more than enough time to recharge them when the wind picks up or the demand for electricity is low.

Fraunhofer Smart Charger Concept Art. Click image for more info.

The Fraunhofer researchers developed a “smart” charging station, a device that enables electric vehicles to recharge when the system load is low and the share of energy from renewable resources is high. In this way, load peaks can be avoided and the contribution of solar and wind power fully exploited. “For us, it is important that end consumers are completely free to decide when they want to recharge. We do not want them to suffer any disadvantages from the controlled recharging of their vehicles’ batteries,” Noeren emphasizes. That’s why he favors electricity rates that adapt to the prevailing situation in the power grid — ones that are more expensive in periods of peak demand and particularly cheap when there is a surfeit of renewable energy.

Noeren is right, most all light and personal transport vehicles sitting still and empty is the vast bulk of the useable lifetime.  That presents an opportunity both to charge, store and discharge.  The amount of energy has a value as well as the speed the amount is delivered.  Add those points to the time of day that energy is drawn and the available renewable supply.  One might be very interested if one charged up on the cheap overnight and discharged to others during the morning rush.  Smart enough information handling and the cost of energy for transport could make much more sense.

The Fraunhofer thinking is the person using the “smart” charging station could then choose between recharging immediately or opting for a cheaper, possibly longer, recharging time. If they go for the second option, all they need to do is enter the time when their vehicle has to be ready to drive again. The charging station takes care of everything else, calculating the costs and controlling the recharging process. Via the display the user can track the progress of recharging and also see the costs incurred and the amount of energy used.

They’re halfway there . . . Now if the utility companies catch on and work out the economics the markets could start some forecasts.

A lot depends on more than the price(s).  There’s a whole lot of politics, investment and return, and operating costs to understand much better before much can happen.  A huge amount of mass storage would help as well.

Yet, it’s a gallant start.   The group showed their prototype charger at the Hannover Messe back in April.


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