Plugging electric vehicles in at cheapest time could save on power bills, CMU finds
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
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 2 states, 2 different conclusions about fracking
- Energy sector adjusts to global oil plummet
- 84 Lumber vice president McCrobie says company, housing market rebounding
- 8 Western Pennsylvania hospitals penalized over infections
- Real estate union: Howard Hanna buys Langholz Wilson Ellis
- Drought opens Texas ranchers’ eyes to income options
- ExOne Co. moves solidify authority under CEO
- Mind the time: Optimize last-minute shopping
- Peet’s Coffee & Tea closes its 3 Pittsburgh stores
- Agriculture prospects envisioned in Cuba
- New York farmers lament lost opportunity for gas riches