An EV Charger that Forms a Small Household Microgrid?

Nov. 11, 2015
Can an EV charger multi-task? Researchers at Kettering University in Michigan say they are creating an EV charger that will do far more than just charge our cars. Think of how much more today’s cellphones do than just make calls. That’s the kind of future this team envisions for EV chargers.

Can an EV charger multi-task? Researchers at Kettering University in Michigan say they are creating an EV charger that will do far more than give our cars a zap of electricity.

Kettering reports that Nelson Wang, co-founder of Carbon Zero Advanced Research (CZAR), has come up with a ‘smart’ charger that he compares to a cellphone.

“A long time ago, we only used cellphones to make calls,” Wang said. “But now, most people use their phone as an entire system. We want to apply that idea to the charger. It will potentially have a big impact on society.”

The charger would act as a hub connecting several energy sources — the battery, the storage system and the electric utility. Wang described it as forming “a small micro-grid system.”

“Once successful, this technology will allow renewable energy to be connected to infrastructure, thereby charging vehicles more economically,” said Kevin Bai, associate professor of electrical engineering at Kettering. “It will promote future microgrid development, resulting in a less centralized grid. So, for example, if a blackout happens, this charging technology would allow a house or vehicle to still have access to power.”

The charging technology is bidirectional in power flow and accepts inputs from the solar power to charge EVs or other battery systems.

The research team, which began work in March at Kettering’s Advanced Power Electronics Lab, has fully tested the system and is now working on making it more efficient and increasing its power density.

Some of the initial tests have been promising, including showing about 96 percent efficiency, according to a news release issued by Kettering.  Researchers also are working to connect the charging station to the Internet, so that drivers can obtain the location of the charging station through their phones. They’d also be able to monitor the usage of solar energy generated versus the amount of energy used from the grid and calculate the real cost for electricity used.

“We’re developing a charger for electric vehicles, but the key differentiation from existing charging technology is we’re trying to make it ‘smart,'” Wang said. “No one else has a charger like what we’re developing. We think of it differently — we want it to be communicating with renewable energy sources, like solar.”

CZAR Power says investors have expressed interest from Japan and China. More details are here.

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About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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