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Electric vehicles in smart grid trial

Plugged in: Electric vehicle recharging poles are set to be installed in the Hunter Valley as part of a 'smart grid' trial.

Newcastle to get EV fleet to test electricity smart grid technologies

General News logo14 Jun 2010


A FLEET of up to 20 electric vehicles (EVs) has been earmarked for inclusion a federal government-funded $100 million ‘smart grid’ electricity demonstration in New South Wales, primarily in Newcastle.

Data from the EV element of the trial covering 50,000 homes will be used to help electricity suppliers and retailers develop strategies to handle electricity demand for EVs and work through technical issues.

This data might be used to decide specific off-peak car-charging tariffs and also explore systems that automatically bill motorists who recharge their cars at public charging stations or other people’s premises, to avoid payment complications.

The fleet of “between 10 and 20 all-electric cars” is being sought by EnergyAustralia – the company that owns and operates the wires of the electricity grid – after it led a successful consortium bid to set up the first trial of a commercial-scale smart electricity grid in Australia with federal backing.

EnergyAustralia spokesman Anthony O’Brien told GoAuto the cars would be sought from car-makers such as Nissan, Mitsubishi and Renault, which were pioneering mass-produced EVs in Australia.

He said the cars would be used in the Hunter region, but by whom was yet to be determined, but some might include local Hunter councils.

“All those details need to be ironed out,” he said.

Mr O’Brien said the main point of the trial would be to collect data on the impact of EVs at a residential level.

He said that data would be made available to the three energy retailers also involved in the project – EnergyAustralia Retail, Origin Energy and AGL.

 center imageLeft: Federal climate change minister Penny Wong.

The EVs will be recharged across a network of private and public charging points to be installed by EV infrastructure company Better Place Australia, in both the Hunter Valley and Sydney.

A further 20 EVs will trialled in the Sydney CBD by Sydney City Council as part of the smart grid demonstration, focusing on battery storage and smart-charging points.

The smart-grid electricity system will get software systems to intelligently manage charging through an EV network operations centre. This presumably means cars will be charged according to demand on the network.

The first mass-produced EVs currently being rolled out in Australia, including the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Nissan Leaf and Toyota Plug-in Hybrid Prius, have simple plug-and-charge systems.

Ultimately, EV systems will ‘talk’ with the car’s computer to automatically manage the charging process, even returning power from the car’s batteries to the grid at times of peak demand.

A smart grid can identify a specific car when it is plugged in, no matter where, and bill the account holder accordingly. This allows public charging from kerb-side or car park charging points without the risk of electricity theft or need for payment facilities. It also means you can plug in at a friend's house, for example, but the bill is sent to you.

Under the Smart Grid, Smart Cities scheme, new-generation smart meters will be installed at 50,000 homes in Newcastle, Scone, Sydney CBD, Ku-ring-gai and Newington. Of those, 15,000 households will become ‘smart homes’ to trial a new breed of in-house displays and websites that not only track electricity use but also water use and CO2 emissions.

The scheme was announced last week in Newcastle by federal climate change minister Penny Wong who said smart electricity grids were critical in the fight against climate change.

“Smart grids give households the ability to manage their own energy use, as they have enormous potential to improve the efficiency of our electricity sector and transform the way we use energy in our homes and businesses,” she said.

Senator Wong said a smart grid roll out across Australia had the potential to cut carbon emissions by 3.5 million tonnes a year.

Better Place Australia will supply public and private public charge stations in Sydney and the Hunter Valley around Newcastle for the trial, along with the intelligent software systems, using experienced gained in similar roll-outs in Israel and Denmark.

Better Place is also planning to roll out a car charging network in Canberra next year as a precursor to a national network.

Rival ChargePoint recently established its first public charging station in Glebe, Sydney, primarily to service a fleet of 14 Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid rental cars.

That 15-amp system takes about three hours to fully recharge a plug-in Prius, which has a 30km range before reverting to petrol power.

Sydney City Council says it will monitor the Glebe charging point ahead of its own EV roll out later this year as part of the Smart Grid, Smart Cities project.

Apart from Energy Australia and Better Place, Smart Cities consortium partners include the CSIRO, IBM Australia, AGL, GE Energy, TransGrid, Newcastle City Council and the NSW Government.

In Victoria, the state government recently announced a $5 million trial of up to 100 EVs by government departments, businesses and individuals to test all facets of the emerging technology.

The four-year trial is due to kick off this month.

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