There was shock and a little bit of awe when the Pecan Street Inc. Demonstration Project calmly announced its plan to bring 100 electric vehicles to the Mueller neighborhood in 2012. Austin has its fair share of Prius and other hybrid powered vehicles, and in 2012 Mueller is going to have an unfair share of all-electric vehicles with the collaboration between Pecan Street and Chevrolet.
Dubbed the densest concentration of electric vehicles in America, the upside of the move is obvious – a reduction in the use of fossil fuels to power personal automobiles. The challenge of having all of these vehicles sucking juice from the electrical grid is the real opportunity for the project.
If you think about the challenges of the current electrical utility – Austin Energy in the case of Mueller – they have to buy enough generation capacity to keep up with the demands put on the grid by consumers. The typical load profile of a summer day – when residential HVAC makes a big impact – is shown on the right (taken from an Electric Reliability Council of Texas report on peak loads). The utility has to budget for the early evening peaks, and this means adding swing capacity in generation (typically natural gas-fired power stations) and sufficient capability in the distribution network.
With the typical commuting car user arriving home and charging their new electric car, the problems of summer load spikes are exacerbated.
So the project is studying the impact of EVs on usage, and also in the smart grid – the polar opposite of generating electricity in a remote place and transmitting it around the State. The project has also provided incentives for installation of residential rooftop solar photo voltaic in Mueller. In part due to their efforts, there are over 200 homes with solar panels.
So rather than replacing gas power cars with natural gas power stations charging electric vehicles, it will be interesting to see how the model pans out of generating power on your roof to offset the power needed to charge your car.
From Fall 2012, Chevrolet will provide 100 all-electric Chevy Volts to the neighborhood, with the Pecan Street Demonstration Project adding an additional $7500 in rebates to the Federal rebate of $7500 for residents who buy a Volt and participate in the study. For those choosing to lease a Volt, the rebate from the Project will cover the $3000 lease down payment.
Mueller has a high concentration of solar PV, and will have a dense usage of electric vehicles. Hopefully we can iron out the wrinkles of moving away from fossil fuel usage and help shape the future of electrical utility design.
Photo Courtesy of Pecan Street Inc.