Tool Helps Utilities Assess Readiness for Electric Vehicle Charging

April 18, 2012
NREL research helps answer a fundamental question regarding electric vehicles: Is the grid ready to handle them?

Environmental, economic and security concerns regarding oil consumption make electrifying the transportation sector a high national priority. NREL’s Center for Transportation Technologies & Systems (CTTS) has developed a framework for utilities to evaluate the plug-in vehicle (PEV) readiness of distribution transformers. Combining a wealth of vehicle performance statistics with load data from partner utilities including the Hawaiian Electric Company and Xcel Energy, NREL analyzed the thermal loading characteristics of distribution transformers due to vehicle charging. After running millions of simulations replicating varying climates and conditions, NREL is now able to predict aging rates for transformers when PEVs are added to existing building loads.

With the NREL tool, users define simulation parameters by inputting vehicle trip and weather data; transformer load profiles and ratings; PEV penetration, charging rates and battery sizes; utility rates; the number of houses on each transformer; and public charging availability.

Transformer load profiles, drive cycles, and ambient temperature data are then run through the thermal model to produce a one-year time series of the hotspot temperature. Annual temperature durations are calculated to help determine the annual aging rate.

Annual aging rate results are grouped by independent variables. The most useful measure is transformer mileage, a measure of how many electrically-driven miles must be supplied by the transformer. Once the spectrum analysis has been conducted for an area or utility, the outputs can be used to help determine if more detailed evaluation is necessary, or if transformer replacement is required....(Read more...)

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