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October 14, 2008

UMTRI participates in $2 million PHEV grantPlug-in electric vehicles (PHEVs), which are expected to be on the market in 2010, could not only provide vehicle fuel savings but could also route power back into the electricity grid during peak usage.

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $2 million grant to University of Michigan (U-M) scientists, including UMTRI's John L. Sullivan, to explore every aspect of how PHEVs will perform and interact with the electrical grid. This concept of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) integration is part of a larger effort to embrace large-scale changes needed to improve the sustainability and resilience of the transportation and electric power infrastructures.

Electric plants excel at generating power, but generally are not equipped to store it. Stored electrical energy has a number of advantages including buffering against transient surges in electricity demand or interruptions in supply, and permitting deployment of electricity-generating assets (based-load versus spin-up reserves) that lead to a more uniform power generation profile day and night. Unfortunately, massive storage systems can be costly and problematic. If V2G integration succeeds, it will enable the grid to utilize PHEV batteries as an energy store to be used by utilities when needed, such as during peak hours. Such a system is particularly valuable for storing renewable energy from wind and the sun. PHEV owners would be compensated for this usage.

Sullivan, research scientist and lead of UMTRI's Sustainable Transportation Systems Group, will employ agent-based modeling to create a virtual automotive marketplace. The model will be made up of thousands of autonomous virtual decision makers — mostly consumers, but also auto manufacturers, energy providers, and government officials. The model will be applied to study the penetration of PHEVs into the auto marketplace and their impact on the electricity grid. Sullivan says, "This is particularly important as PHEVs are a potential energy resource for the electricity industry. The cost to drive a mile using electricity is four to five times lower than the cost for gasoline, which has important implications to the acceptability of these vehicles in the marketplace. During peak demand time, it would make sense to pull power from thousands of vehicles rather than having to build a new power generator."

The research team also includes Hosam Fathy, Zoran Filipi, Huei Peng, and Jeff Stein of U-M's Department of Mechanical Engineering; Duncan Callaway and Greg Keoleian of U-M's School of Natural Resources and Environment; Jing Sun of U-M's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; Carl Simon of the U-M Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; and Mariesa Crow of the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

For more information, read the press release.