TribLIVE

| Business

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Plugging electric vehicles in at cheapest time could save on power bills, CMU finds

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

On the Grid

From the shale fields to the cooling towers, Trib Total Media covers the energy industry in Western Pennsylvania and beyond. For the latest news and views on gas, coal, electricity and more, check out On the Grid today.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Timothy Puko
Friday, Jan. 24, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
 

Electric vehicles could drive up power prices without the right equipment to ensure they're charging at the cheapest times, according to research from Carnegie Mellon University.

Sophisticated timers could save $50 to $100 per car by delaying when electric cars tap into the grid, researchers in CMU's Engineering and Public Policy Department said. If owners plug their cars in when they get home — as everyone else arrives home to turn on lights, TVs and ovens — it hikes prices by adding demand at a peak time, they said.

“If you charge cars when people get home, you use the ... power plants that are most expensive,” said Allison Weis, a CMU doctoral candidate whose work is funded in part by the National Science Foundation. “We're just trying to capture how much money is on the table.”

The CMU researchers came up with their numbers by crunching data on New York power plants. Government agencies track power plant usage, and the researchers put that data into models that projected how much money would be wasted if electric cars are charged at times of peak demand. All of the work came from data modeling, not from testing cars.

There are about 2 million electric or partially electric vehicles in use nationwide, according to the federal government. There will be 10.1 million on U.S. roads by 2022, according to research released this month by Navigant Consulting Inc. If they're all charging at peak times, it adds costs for everybody.

Some cars come equipped with timers, which save about $50 a year by delaying charging until late at night, when demand is lower and grid operators can run only the cheapest of power plants, Weis said. The savings could grow to $70 to $100 a year if those devices were more sophisticated and communicated with the grid, so they could accept outside signals to start charging at precisely the cheapest times, she said.

The tricky thing is that most people pay a flat rate for electricity no matter when they use it, meaning car owners wouldn't necessarily see the savings from timing their charges. It would be up to the grid operator or electric providers to use rebates or some other kind of incentive to promote their use, in hopes of reducing demand at peak times and improving reliability for everyone, Weis said.

PJM Interconnection, which runs the region's power grid, could be open to that, spokesman Ray Dotter said. It has partnered with universities and automakers in other pilot programs to help electric vehicles and their owners, he said.

“In a nutshell, that kind of idea makes sense,” he said. “One of the goals of the utility business for decades has been filling the valleys to level the peaks” of demand.

Timothy Puko is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Business Headlines

  1. Post-Gazette offers voluntary buyouts in bid to avoid layoffs
  2. U.S. Steel CEO expects rebound
  3. United Airlines hack coincided with incursion into government employee data
  4. Voice-assisted technology raises privacy concerns
  5. Gold continues to fall further out of favor with investors
  6. Range Resources cuts workforce 11%
  7. Muni bond funds stressed
  8. Plastics propel Bayer’s 2Q earnings
  9. Travelers find direct Web route to Priory’s spirited past in North Side
  10. PPG puts brand 1st in strategy to reach commercial paint market
  11. EPA ordered to ease limits on cross-border air pollution that involves Pennsylvania