Will Electric Vehicles Power Up Your Properties?

April 27, 2012
President Obama’s launch last month of the “EV-Everywhere Challenge” sets ambitious targets for electric vehicles (EVs).

President Obama’s launch last month of the “EV-Everywhere Challenge” sets ambitious targets for electric vehicles (EVs). The Department of Energy deems the EV initiative one of its “Grand Challenges,” those that address the steepest obstacles to clean energy. It necessarily converges on the vehicles themselves as well as the charging infrastructure required for the vehicles.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu pointed to two key issues: “The EV-Everywhere Challenge is focused on advancing electric vehicle technologies and continuing to reduce costs so that a decade from now, electric vehicles will be more affordable and convenient to own than today’s gasoline-powered vehicles.”

Facilities are likely to play a huge role in affordability and convenience. The latter factor fits well with the fact that occupants typically park their vehicles for most of the workday. The affordability factor can be enhanced by interconnecting EVs and power microgrids in commercial buildings.

Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab have modeled interconnection scenarios with an eye to minimizing building energy costs and CO2 emissions. The scenarios’ variables include the number of cars available, the HVAC and power systems installed in the building (absorption cooling, solar thermal, CHP systems), projected energy costs, and the fuels used for power generation. EVs belonging to occupants would be charged by the building’s microgrid and vice versa. Building owners would compensate EV owners for energy transferred to the building and for battery degradation, while the vehicle owners would pay for energy transferred to their vehicles. The building’s energy management system would manage the charge/discharge pattern of the EV batteries during connection hours.

The facility manager’s goals are a significant factor in the researchers’ conclusions. If the goal is CO2 reduction, then stationary batteries in the building may be more effective due to their 24-hour availability and the assumption that a larger share of the energy used to charge them would come from photovoltaic sources. If the priority is energy cost, vehicle batteries may be more effective due to their impact during peak hours.

Clearly such findings are preliminary and hypothetical, but they do point to one intriguing fact: facility managers in the future will set priorities and make energy management decisions that they do not make today.

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