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NC State computer model plots best locations for EV chargers

With the number of electric vehicles expected to increase in the coming years, transportation officials across the country are laying out plans for an extensive network of charging stations.

One thing they need to keep in mind: A fast charging power station requires a constant flow of power. A fast charging power station that can recharge multiple vehicles at once requires a constant flow of large amounts of electricity-in some areas more than is provided by current electricity infrastructure. .

To begin solving that problem, researchers at North Carolina State University created a computer model that identifies areas where drivers need to recharge and aligns them with areas that really provide enough power to manage demand.

Transportation officials are concerned about how to design, build and maintain roads and traffic. The best charging locations are where cars are easily accessible – such as grocery stores and off -highway areas.

Unlike gas stations, which fill underground tanks with a liquid product, charging stations require power networks to transmit electricity. Power grids, such as high-voltage towers and transmission lines, may not be easily accessible.

“The optimal locations for a charging facility and for an electrical system are not the same,” said Asia Atik, a transportation engineer and one of the authors of the NC State report.

Other studies have considered the problem from just one point of view-either the most convenient locations for people driving cars, or where the grid can provide enough power to recharge one. steady stream of vehicles.

NC researchers used a computer model to identify the best locations in cities by considering both.

“This study is exciting,” said Scott Moura, a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, who also researches charging facilities, “because it’s one of the few that can understand if how the power and transportation network. interact when they are linked to fast-charging stations. “

The NC State model creates locations with the lowest construction costs for transportation and electricity networks.

People who want to charge their cars think and act in ways that network infrastructures don’t. They are looking for the quickest solution to save time and money.

Detours for cheaper billing can change electricity and traffic flow. As a result, the new energy and transportation infrastructure will have to accommodate changes, such as how much power will have to be delivered by chargers.

The model mimics the behavior of drivers by ensuring that electric car users travel as quickly as possible. By taking into account the very best interests of the networks and drivers, even before the construction of the stations, the computer model balanced the needs of all the players.

Interstate map of electric vehicle charging stations across the East Coast studied by Hajibabai at North Carolina State University Map courtesy of Leila Hajibabai

Floating on the road

The researchers used this method in the first study of streets in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill that were within the university’s commuting range.

They promoted charging station candidates that link to the existing power grid on the NC State campus. Instructors, students, and campus visitors driving from one of the towns may find themselves charging their cars in one of the parking lots in the future.

According to Leila Hajibabai, the professor who led the research, the conversation about expanding the charging network on campus and in Raleigh is ongoing.

Raleigh has more than 200 public charging stations but only 13% of them are fast chargers. Durham has five high-speed chargers and Chapel Hill does not, according to the Charge Hub, map charging stations.

Deploying faster chargers, which require high energy output, could be a future challenge for federal and state governments as well as private local utilities, according to Moura.

The electricity consumption at charging stations is similar to people’s daily lives, but instead of a couple kilowatts, “it’s hundreds of kilowatts for each person,” he said.

This new study can estimate how fast each charging station is without much weight on the local power grid, according to Hajibabai.

Hajibabai’s work is “a step forward in planning for the electricity charging infrastructure,” said Ramteen Sioshansi, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Ohio State University.

Predicting drivers ’behavior, whether they use stations or not, is a challenge that needs to be addressed in future studies, he added.

Connecting dots to in-city power and traffic networks is just one piece of the puzzle to find the best charging locations.

If riders have to drive farther than the distance of their electric car, they should stop at least once. The question became where they could stop when traveling.

“One of my concerns … is the range ban-whether I can find charging stations available for long-distance travel,” Atik said.

The researchers used the new algorithm to identify the best places to stop on the East Coast, from Atlanta to Philadelphia.

The interstate model selects large cities with a high density of billing requirements for different car brands based on their maximum travel distance. Raleigh and Charlotte are two of the major cities selected for such East Coast networks.

Surprisingly, small towns that don’t always think about building charging stations require some of these capabilities, according to the study.

“People won’t think about putting up charging stations in the small town but it should be,” Atik added.

Deploy road

The U.S. Office of Energy and Transportation will invest $ 5 billion in charging networks by 2030, and this study will help determine the best locations for charging stations across highways and agianan.

“We are modernizing America’s national highway system for drivers in cities large and small, towns and rural communities, to take advantage of the benefits of electric driving,” the NC State press release said.

Experts on charging networks, Moura and Sioshansi, both say that the government, especially regional planning organizations, should consider this new computer model for the public interest and consumers. policy decisions.

Hajibabai believes their findings can expand billing options for a variety of demographics, including the elderly and people with disabilities. Hospitals and airports, which face different issues than urban neighborhoods, could also benefit from the study.

“We want to make a positive impact on society,” he added, “our current efforts continue.”

Chiungwei Huang covers science for The News & Observer as an AAAS Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellow. He is a UNC-CH graduate with a Ph.D. in physical chemistry and from Taiwan.

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