California-based electric carmaker ZAP has licensed the Smart Charger Controller technology developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
The technology allows customers to minimize the cost of charging electric cars by automatically recharging a vehicle’s battery at times of least demand on the grid and subsequently, least cost to the consumer.
Battelle, an international science and technology organization that manages and operates PNNL for the U.S. Department of Energy, also has granted ZAP the right to sublicense the technology to ZAP Hangzhou. ZAP plans to distribute the new technology as part of its electric cars business plan, including through its strategic investor and distribution partner Samyang Optics (008080.KS) of Korea.
PNNL publicly announced the Smart Charger Controller technology last year after completing an earlier assessment that showed America’s existing power grid could meet the needs of about 158 million vehicles, or 70 percent of all U.S. light-duty vehicles, if battery charging was managed to avoid new peaks in electricity demand.
Owners program the controller to charge at a specific time of day or night or at a set price point. The controller uses a low-range wireless technology to communicate with the power grid and determine the best and cheapest time to recharge vehicles. By charging vehicles during off-peak times, the controller saves consumers money and helps maximize the capacity of the electrical grid during periods of peak demand.
Previous PNNL studies with household appliances show that “smart” technologies also save the grid from brown-outs with little impact to the consumer. Grid Friendly(TM) technology inside the Smart Charger Controller senses stress conditions on the grid. When the grid says more power is needed, the controller can temporarily stop charging the vehicle until the stress subsides.
This instant reduction in charging load, multiplied on a large scale with many electric cars, could serve as a shock absorber for the grid and help to incorporate renewable energy like wind and solar. The technology could relieve load instantly and give grid operators time to bring new power generation sources on line to stabilize the grid – a process that usually takes several minutes.
ZAP intends to use the technology for its electric car charging program in the USA, Korea and through its JV in China, ZAP Hangzhou later in 2010.