PNNL smart grid technology hits the market

Battelle has licensed technology developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory that will help electric car drivers charge their rides at times of lowest cost and stress on the electric grid as smart grid capabilities become more available.

ZAP, a California car maker, will market Smart Charger Controller technology in the United States, Korea and, through a joint venture, China.

Owners of electric cars can set the time they want the battery to be fully charged. Technology that relies on low-range wireless will communicate with the power grid, if a local utility has that communication function available, and determine the best time to recharge vehicles.

The controller senses stress conditions on the grid and can temporarily stop charging the vehicle until the grid can better handle demand.

It also could save consumers money as utilities start pricing electricity to be less expensive when demand is lower.

"If millions of owners plug in their electric vehicles to recharge after work at the same time, it could cause stress on the grid," PNNL engineer Michael Kintner-Meyer said in a statement. "The Smart Charger Controller will prevent those peaks in demand from plug-in vehicles and enable our existing grid to be used more efficiently."

A PNNL assessment showed that America's existing power grid could meet the needs of about 158 million vehicles, or 70 percent of all U.S. passenger vehicles, if battery charging was managed to avoid new peaks in electricity demand.

The smart charging technology will help ensure the environmental viability of electric cars, ZAP founder Gary Starr said in a statement. ZAP has a nonexclusive license with Battelle, which operates PNNL in Richland for the Department of Energy.

ZAP has delivered more than 117,000 electric vehicles to more than 75 countries since 1994.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533;