Archive for April, 2013

The Effects of Electric Cars on the Power Grid

Monday, April 15th, 2013

There is an increased impetus to transform the American transportation system and transition it from the uncertainties of oil production. Subsequently, the use of electric cars has been gaining momentum over the past few years. As the number of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids continues to increase significantly, one of the most fundamental and challenging issues will be based on managing the power grid needs or requirements for these cars especially when they are having their batteries recharged frequently. Most electric car owners will definitely want to plug into the grid, which is the national system of wires that connects powers into most electrical outlets in homes and institutions. The additional load will require capacitors, transformers and other relevant power distribution devices to be upgraded. The primary objective of this research paper is to examine the potential effects of electric cars on the power grid.
Electric cars are perceived as the cars of the future owning to the dwindling environmental conditions caused by deplorable human induced activities that cause toxic waste be emitted to the atmosphere. The significance of electric cars is indisputable; as the world becomes modern so do the old ways of living change and people adapt new and proper ways of living. The world is currently undergoing global warming whose negative effects are affecting people‘s health and the environment. The environmental footprint as indicated by the Global Footprint Network is growing at a high rate and the car footprint is considered the biggest contributor of carbon toxic to the environment. Toxic gases damage the atmosphere and the ozone layer and this in turn contributes to global warming. Consequently, the adoption of electric cars is necessary since it contributes to sustainable living. There are disputes that concern the use of electric cars in terms of electricity demand, and supply infrastructure. In addition, there is a debate concerning the effects of electric cars on the power grid the quantity and the ability to supply is concerned. Electric cars cannot affect power grids negatively if the right measures are taken to protect them for instance right timing and use of advanced technology to supply electricity. The objective of this paper is to show the positive and negative effects of electric cars on the power grid while trying to show which effect prevails over the other.
1.0 Electric Cars
In order to understand the effects of electric vehicles on Power grid one needs to understand what propels electric cars and some of their critical component bodies. Electric cars are propelled by an electric motor that is powered by rechargeable battery packs (U.S Department of Energy , 2013). Electric vehicles function by using electric energy to create mechanical energy.
The electric motor is much more efficient compared to a gasoline engine because it provides more force to move the vehicle (Borlase, 2012). In addition, the application of electric motor compared to gasoline engine provides high power to weight ratio. Therefore, from an engineer’s perspective, electric motor has more efficiency and is cheaper to operate when considering cost concerns. Electric motors have a relatively constant torque delivered even when the car is travelling at low speed and this has the outcome of increasing the acceleration performance of the car (Borlase, 2012). Currently, there are different types of electric motors because each is created by a different designer or is custom made. The motor types that are generally used in electric cars are divided in to three primary groups: DC motors, Brushless DC motors, and AC induction motors (U.S Department of Energy , 2013):
DC Motors
These types of motors use a commuter to control when certain set of rotor coils is energized at any time to maintain rotation. DC motors are the most economical, but it is hard for the user to use regenerative braking with this type of motor.
Brushless Motors
This type of motor uses a rotor with permanent magnets. Its stator has a rotating field controlled electronically using sensors. The function of the sensor is to give feedback and to detect rotor position. Their main weakness of this motor is that it require advanced motor controller to operate efficiently.
AC Induction Motors
AC induction motor uses a rotating magnetic field in the stator so that it induces a magnetic field in the rotor. Its rotor field will always rotate slower than the stator field and the ensuing difference is what provides the torque output.
6.0 Solution to Power Grid Question
There are solutions that exist to solve the power grade solution like building new power plants and redesigning the EV’s batteries so that they can accumulate more energy reducing the time and effort required to recharge the car. Nonetheless, research shows that power grids can serve million cars refuting the need to build more power plants that would be costly. According to all the research I have conducted, each writer or contributor point out that timing and advanced technology are the key to the power grid question.
6.1 Timing Aspect
Timing is considered the solution to the power grid dilemma because electricity supplies function and is supplied according to time factor. In a new study conducted by Oak Ridge National Laboratory concerning the impact of EV’s on the power grids in the next few decades, timing is the standard way of dealing with problems of overloading. According to ORNL studies, if EVs were charged during late hours for instance at 10 pm there may not be need for establishing new power plants (Brass, 2008). This view compares with Gallman analysis on power supply versus distance range and timing. For instance, if PEVs were plugged at 5 pm when electricity consumption is high and consumed 6 kW of power on average with an existing 30 % market penetration then approximately 160 new power plants will have to be built by 2020 (Brass, 2008). This situation revels that timing affects the consumption of electricity rates, which varies in real time aside the demand and supply situation for electricity. The supply and demand for electricity and the program charges that could accompany abrupt use of EVs (the only situation that could affects power grid functioning) can only be set to change cars between specific hours of the day or when the rate are below certain expectations.
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While the timing aspect seems like a practical solution for solving the power grid question, the main hindrance towards the execution of proper timing would be people. Not only does the timing aspect present a costly affair in terms of situating charging stations, but also the process of recharging takes time. Consequently, people would find the task of recharging the car at 10 pm unappealing ordeal. The reason is that people go to sleep and rest during this time of the night and in addition, they are always tired due to working during the day. However, the government can create motivational gestures like incentives for those who recharge their cars during this time (Richard, 2010).
6.2 Advanced Technology
The power grid dispute can be solved using advanced technology. Hybrid electric cars were designed and invented due to two reasons: need and applicability. Gasoline cars continue to diminish the atmosphere causing environmental pollution and health risk to human beings. That reason led to the invention of cars that would perform the same task yet leave little or no bad effect to sustainable living. In the same way, engineers need to design and invent EVs that are efficient and cause little strain when using. Engineers and scientists have invented the smart charge purposely for Plugged-in Electric Vehicles. This gadget monitors the car and confers relevant information to the driver for instance when to recharge, the demand on the system, and price of power (Brass, 2008). This aspect of an EV can encourage prospect buyers to buy the car because they will not have to worry about driving to long distances. Engineers can use such design those smart chargers according to the power supply rate so that people can recharge the cars during low consumption periods of the day.
Electric vehicles (EVs) offer suitable alternatives to gasoline vehicles because they are environment friendly and they bear performance benefit like stronger acceleration and little maintenance. Moreover, they use the electric motor that provides it the force to propel efficiently compared to gasoline vehicles. Besides being expensive, there are several concerns that accompany use of EVs but the most prominent is the effect it may have on the local and national power grid. Electricity is a vital component for any successful economy, and maintaining a constant supply of electricity is crucial. The idea is that if people were to start using electric vehicles then it would affect the power supply negatively so that there is constant overload. If an overload situation were to begin then it would lead to recurrent shutdown of electricity supply, this would harm the economy by limiting the number of jobs that can be done at night, and it would lead to insecurity. However, studies by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory shows that power grid can cater for millions of EVs through right timing and proper electricity management program. In addition, studies show that the only time when people should be really concerned is if they suddenly start using EVs. However, that cannot happen because EVs are expensive compared to gasoline vehicles and they still have to be accepted after necessary infrastructure like recharge stations have been build across the country. Even if the country was to experience sudden use of EVs then the government can build power plants to supply the level of electricity needed for household and EV consumption.

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