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Grid Research:
Making the Grid Smarter

Ted Bohn and mock-up of plug-in connection standard J-1772.
Argonne engineer Ted Bohn holds a mock-up of the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) connection standard called J-1772. This connector will facilitate both charging and communication.
Interactive Grid Model
Argonne transportation researchers created this interactive model to demonstrate how the smart grid interacts with different types of customers.

As the smart grid moves from concept to reality, Argonne National Laboratory is helping to ensure this technology will interact seamlessly with the emergence of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).

The smart grid involves updating the existing power grid to employ real-time, two-way communication technologies that allow consumers to connect directly with power suppliers. This will give consumers the ability to choose where their electricity comes from and when they want it delivered.

The smart grid is a key element of President Obama’s plan to lower energy costs for consumers, achieve energy independence and reduce greenhouse gases. And with the president’s goal to have one million PHEVs on the road by 2015, a smarter grid also becomes increasingly important for managing the added electricity demand created by these next-generation vehicles.

An important component of integrating PHEVs into the grid will be the vehicle’s plug. Ted Bohn, a principal engineer at Argonne, sits on an international committee working to develop the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) new connection standard called J-1772. The group is defining this standard, so manufacturers can build compatible connectors and vehicle sockets that will support both charging and two-way communication.

“Communication is what allows a charger to be a smart charger,” Bohn said. “It’s not simply a plug-in and turn-on charger like a cell phone charger. The smart charger allows you to charge your vehicle at a rate that is bargained between the consumer and the grid.”

Interactive Grid Model

To illustrate how this process works, Bohn and his colleagues at Argonne created an interactive smart grid model for demonstration purposes. In May, Bohn presented Argonne’s smart grid model to international audiences at the EVS 24 Conference in Stavanger, Norway and Test Site Sweden’s Tech Transfer Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden.

The model shows how different types of consumers could interact with the smart grid. For example, a frugal customer may wait until off-peak hours to charge a PHEV because it is cheaper, while an environmentally-conscious customer may pay more to get their electricity from wind power instead of coal.

In addition to helping people save money and help the environment, the smart grid is also a big help to electricity providers. By giving utilities real-time information about where power is needed and what energy sources are available, they can route power more efficiently without overloading the grid.

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Ted Bohn

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