NREL facility targets innovations to speed adoption of electric cars

By: Steve Monday February 4, 2013 0 comments Tags: Bob Rehn, Golden, microgrids, Mike Simpson, NREL, VTIF

GOLDEN - Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory are advancing a more sustainable transportation future by incorporating the latest electric vehicle technology, expanded use of renewable energy resources for vehicle charging and grid integration.

The research is being conducted by engineers working in NREL's Vehicle Testing and Integration Facility on the NREL campus in Golden.

"Our goal is to target the key innovations necessary to accelerate the rate of adoption for electric-drive vehicles," said Bob Rehn, group manager for testing and analysis at NREL's Center for Transportation Technologies and Systems (CTTS).

"In addition, our efforts are focused on scenarios that will incorporate expanded use of renewable energy resources to charge those vehicles."

The VTIF, in operation just over a year, was built with a focus on testing electric vehicles, charging options and grid integration - all critical components of expanded use of plug-in electric vehicles, NREL said.

"There are a lot of entities investigating components of electric vehicles, grid integration or infrastructure," said Mike Simpson, NREL vehicle systems engineer.

"There are very few places looking at how they all come together as a much larger, connected system. This facility was designed from the ground up to specifically address that intersection point."

Capabilities of the VTIF include vehicle energy management within smart grids, vehicle charge integration with renewable energy resources, bi-directional vehicle charge testing and demonstration, and vehicle thermal management, NREL said.

Four test bays allow for multiple tests to be conducted at once in controlled environments, with one bay specifically designed to test heavy-duty vehicles.

An upcoming addition to the facility is an 18-kilowatt solar array, which will be tied directly to vehicle charging and allow researchers to do expanded work around the use of solar energy to charge vehicles within microgrids, NREL said.

"We're bringing together systems that have never had a reason to talk to one another before," Simpson said. "There are enormous opportunities to bring value to this intersection of vehicle and grid, which will increase adoption of these technologies.

"We need to be exploring all of the different value streams to enable wider electric vehicle adoption and improved interaction with the grid," he said. "We can implement all of these different tactics in harmony with one another here at the VTIF. It's a very exciting opportunity."

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