Will We Soon Be Negotiating Over Who Gets To Charge an EV First?

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We don’t negotiate with our neighbors over who gets to run their dishwashers or clothes dryers first. We don’t negotiate with them over who gets to turn their lights on, or blow-dry their hair first.

But, at some point in the future, we may be negotiating over who gets to charge an EV first.

Here’s why: Charging an EV can really strain a neighborhood distribution system. If a group of neighbors all decide to come home and charge their EVs at once, it can hurt the system.

The answer: Software and incentives that help neighbors decide who gets to charge their EV–and when.

That’s the word from Lin Khoo, senior vice president of Greenlots, which provides software systems that will allow this kind of discussion. Or argument. Or battle.

It’s called “smart charging,” and it looks like this: “The system would tell you not to charge if your neighbor is still charging or if you need to charge urgently, you ask them to turn down their charging,” he said.

Jeff Turner, project engineer at Powertech Labs, says that in order for this to happen, the utility has to offer incentives to motivate EV owners to change their behavior.

Of course, what if the incentives don’t work? What if the EV owners want their cars charged–and now!?

Interesting questions to contemplate. Will we see polite discussions or big battles? In my neighborhood, people argue over who gets to park their car where. What will happen when they can’t even get their car going?

Tell us what you think!

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  1. I really don’t think it’s an issue. People turn on stoves and dryers all the time that use almost as much and sometimes even more current, and the grid handles it just fine. One more appliance isn’t going to break the system. I thought this was going to be about public EV charging. On that subject, I think that pure battery EVs should have precedence over plug-in hybrids. BEVs must charge or may not reach their destination. Hybrids should just be satisfied with charring at home and getting their savings on the first 40 miles or so. I think if a station is being used by a hybrid, it should be OK for a BEV to unplug it and charge. Trying to get all the free miles possible for a hybrid is not nearly as important as being able to reach one’s destination.
    I just leased my second leaf, trading in the 2011 on a 2015. I was pleasantly surprised to see that you could set a lock on automatic so that no one could disconnect when charing, but when it’s over, anyone can unplug you. That seems quite equitable, rather than feeling compelled to leave someone plugged in who may be hogging an EV connection unnecessarily.
    Just my thoughts.
    As for the grid handling the load, I think it’s inconsequential. Here’s why:
    I did this chart for an energy conference where I was a speaker many years ago. It’s relatively unchanged since then.

    • Clearly there is a lack of understanding about how things work based on the responses in this forum.

      BEV charging is quite different than Stoves and Dryers which all are started at different times throughout the day, and the load decreases and increases as the device is used. After initial heat-up (at about 5-10kW), the load drops significantly (to less than 500W) with only short peaks occasionally when the heater briefly turns on to reheat the stove or dryer. The actual electrical load to the neighborhood is spread out amongst all the random peaks consumed by all the houses. The same applies to AirCon and Electric heat.

      The issue for Electric cars is that the load is high continuously at peak level (3-6kW), and lasts for many hours. This long-term constant high load is very hard on transformers and wiring which is sized for an average power spread out across numerous loads. Even if all electric cars were put on timers, they would all start consuming at near the same time, and that high load would overheat the transformers and compromise the utility wiring.

      The idea of load management is really nothing new. The utilities have been doing this for years with interruptible air conditioning. With large industrial electrical consumers, the utility even manages how much power can be used, and the manufacturer may shut down equipment during peak times. With BEVs, the consumption can easily be reduced by the charging equipment briefly to ensure grid stability and peak load shedding; this only increases the time needed to complete charging. The charging equipment could be programmed to listen for signals from the utility to reduce consumption.

  2. Manuel Fernandes says:

    follow the same comment as Rick, a EV charging at home in a normal charging process takes less energy then the sum of a dishwashers + clothes dryers + blow-dry hair. So if that was not a problem until now, will not be a problem in the future.
    A home charging process can vary from 3000W/h to whatever your house installation can give and the wall-box power you have installed. But taking the 3000-3500W/h in consideration there are quite a few machines we use at home that spend the same, so we should be very careful on the head-line we write as this might get against us, and just create public concern on buying electric vehicles.
    If they don’t just read the headline, then they understand the good technology and SW being developed, but 98% of the people just read headlines.
    As for Smart-grid, smart-energy balancing including the smart-charging, this is something we all will need in the due time to get used to it and do it more efficiently. And if that passes by receiving incentives (or more easily) paying less every-month on the energy-bill I am sure we will see it being implemented faster, as their is gain to each one of us.


  1. […] distribution system. If a group of neighbors all decide to come home and charge their EVs at once, it can hurt the system. […]