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Hoover Tower with SEQ PV panels

Bits & Watts researchers examine initiative’s projects, like grid managing vast EV adoption

Oct 20, 2020
Precourt Institute

By Kara Glenwright

Corporate members of the Bits & Watts Initiative, Stanford faculty and students, and industry guests discussed progress in the EV50 research program, which addresses the challenges associated with fifty percent adoption of electric vehicles, and were briefed on the initiative’s newly funded grid research projects

This fifty percent equates to roughly 130 million EVs on roads in the United States, which would result in a significant increase in U.S. electricity demand, said Ram Rajagopal, who opened the session. EV50 addresses how to prepare the electric grid for this transition and how to manage the charging of these EVs.

“It was very productive for everyone to get together from a variety of disciplines and industries to discuss these very important ideas for a transition to fifty percent adoption of electric vehicles,” Liang Min, managing director for Bits and Watts, commented after the event.

EV50 is a Bits & Watts flagship program launched in October last year. One project that has already come out of EV50 is a methodology for scalable probabilistic estimates of EV charging, known as SPEECH. This project will help quickly generate scenarios for places like California, based on currently available data, Rajagopal said. It is challenging, however, to project a future with deeper penetration of EV charging when that data does not yet exist.

“We have designed a fast and flexible data-driven approach that allows us to capture driver types, their behaviors and uncertainties, and how they might respond to prices and scheduling,” Rajagopal said.

Another EV50 project focuses on the lack of data for deployment of charging infrastructure and rooftop PV, and the connection of those to network data. To address this, the project uses AI, satellite imagery, and construction permitting to understand where solar panels are today and where charging stations are being deployed at the home level and the public level. This information is then combined with distribution network data, electricity prices and weather information to produce an optimization to identify where new locational investment opportunities exist.

New seed projects

This fall term, Bits & Watts granted four seed grants to various faculty for projects that expand on the EV50 project portfolio. These proof-of-concept awards bridge theory to early experiment and analysis. The relative modest funding is based on the venture model of a high risk of failure in exchange for the possibility of transformational success.

Mechanical Engineering Department’s Ken Goodson presented his project for improving the performance of charging stations and cables from the perspective of thermal management. While cables are currently cooled using a fluid flow, Goodson argued that in the long term, this system has reliability and efficiency issues.

“You could actually build a cooling system at the charging station that would aggressively cool the cable and enable delivery of much higher currents,” Goodson said. This system operates while the vehicle charges to help cool the battery and electronics within the vehicle, revolutionizing the ability of the vehicle to get back on the road at full efficiency, he said.

Ines Azevedo of Energy Resources Engineering discussed the potential for a transition to electrified medium and heavy-duty vehicles in the United States. The goal of this project is to capture the life cycle monetized damages due to greenhouse gas emissions and criteria pollution for both conventional medium and heavy-duty vehicles. The work will also examine what happens to the emissions and their consequences when different options of electrifying these vehicles are pursued, Azevedo said.

Simona Onori, also in Energy Resources Engineering, will research the second life of EV batteries. Three main options for batteries no longer useful for EV applications are disposal, reuse for a second life application and recycling, she said. She focused on how those batteries may be quite useful in stationary applications. The project examines the trajectory of aging performance of batteries in order to understand how best to use them in these second-life applications.

Following the presentation of seed projects, the 119 participants of the session joined four different breakout rooms to discuss the following topics:  EV economics; EV infrastructure planning and operation; fast charging coordination and management; online learning and management for battery systems; and,  EV fleet.