IBM to build smart grid for electric cars

26 Feb 2009

Technology giant IBM is working with a Danish research group to build a smart grid that will support electric cars.

Market introduction and investment plans under the EDISON (Electric Vehicles in a Distributed Market using Sustainable Energy and Open Networks) in Denmark will result in upwards of 10pc of the country’s vehicles being all electric or hybrid electric during the coming years.

In order to minimise carbon emissions linked to electrified transport, global attention on vehicles and infrastructure that will maximise the use of renewable energy for mobility has increased.

To achieve this on a large scale, electric vehicles require smart technologies to control charging and billing and to ensure the stability of the overall energy system.

The first step of the consortium is to develop smart technologies to be implemented on the Danish island of Bornholm, designed to function as a test bed.

The island has 40,000 inhabitants and an energy infrastructure characterised by a large proportion of wind energy. Creating a test bed on the island will allow researchers to study how the energy system functions as the number of electric vehicles increases. The studies will be simulation-based and will not impact security of supply on the island.

Within the project, researchers from IBM Denmark and from IBM’s Zurich Research Laboratory will develop smart technologies that synchronise the charging of the electric vehicles with the availability of wind in the grid.

“Electric vehicles are one of the technologies we can use to incorporate renewable energy into transportation,” said Danish Minister of Climate and Energy, Connie Hedegaard.

“That is why we are making it possible for electric cars to enter the market in order to replace conventional fuel. Projects like Edison show how it’s possible to create sustainable solutions in real life,” Hedegaard added.

In related news, a study by IBM found that people aged 18 to 34 – the Millennials – were most eager for the types of ‘self-service’ and automated energy management that ‘smart’ metering and smart grids will bring.

This age group – and particularly those under 25 – is the most willing to pay a stated premium for these services: approximately US$100 as a one-time fee, or a monthly fee of US$5.

Having a message sent to a mobile device when power is out at the consumer’s home also garnered significantly higher interest from the under-25 age group (about 30pc were more likely than the other age groups to be willing to pay US$1 per month for such a service). The fact that well over half of the under-25 age group is willing to pay these premiums is remarkable because they generally have lower incomes.

IBM surveyed over 5,000 energy consumers in 12 countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, France, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the UK and the US.

“We see new ways the energy consumer is seeking information in order to make more educated and proactive decisions about their energy use,” said Michael Valocchi, global energy & utilities industry leader, IBM Global Business Services.

“Utilities around the world are modernising their networks to stay competitive and respond to the needs and values of their customers.”

By John Kennedy

Pictured: Reva electric cars, one of the most common electric cars in the world