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U of Calgary engineers suggest smart charging for plug-in-cars


August 23, 2009
By Anthony Capkun

A group of electrical engineers at the University of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering conducted a study, and found plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) could release 40% to 90% fewer greenhouse gas emissions in Alberta than conventional passenger vehicles. The environmental impacts of PHEVs in Alberta would depend on factors such as vehicle battery size, battery charging time and wind production levels.

The research of professors Hamid Zareipour, Bill Rosehart and PhD
candidate Mahdi Hajian was presented at the Institute of Electrical and
Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Power & Energy Society General Meeting.

They say Alberta needs ‘smart’ charging systems to make the most of
Alberta’s wind resources. Infrastructure would include technology with
communication links to allow system operators to distribute electricity
to vehicles when wind power production is at its highest, usually at
night.

Optimal use of clean energy is especially important in Alberta, say the
researchers, because it uses the highest amount of thermally generated
power in Canada. More than 90% of electricity in Alberta is produced by
methods that emit greenhouse gases: burning coal, oil or natural gas.

Smart charging systems would also help the power system handle the
increased demand for electricity resulting from widespread adoption of
hybrid cars. Cars would be charged outside of peak demand times to
avoid overloading the grid.

“The whole idea is to consume the wind power in the system as much as
possible,” says Mahdi Hajian. “Unfortunately, the wind is unreliable
because it’s not always blowing when we need it. Smart charging systems
would help us harness the wind so we can store it in the vehicles’
batteries for later use.”

This is the first study to look at the need for smart charging systems
for electric vehicles in Alberta. The researchers used 2007 wind
production levels and assumed 30% of Albertans were driving PHEVs when
they considered a number of scenarios: battery charging at night,
during the day, randomly through the night and randomly over a 24-hour
period. While wind energy production mostly happens at night, all four
scenarios point to the need for smart charging systems.

The results of the study are specific to Alberta but the conclusions
can be applied elsewhere. Zareipour, Rosehart and Hajian say other
provinces should also have smart charging systems, but the need would
depend on electrical load patterns and the availability of clean energy
sources such as hydro.

CLICK HERE for the University of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering.