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Study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) Shows New Reliability Concerns Related to Electric Vehicle Charging

May 21, 2024

The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) has released the results of a research project that studied the relationship between electric vehicle (EV) driving and charging behaviors to understand how those behaviors impact the electric grid. The study was conducted with Utilidata, an AI-powered technology company.

"At UMTRI, our data collection and research projects are focused on creating a safer, more efficient, and equitable transportation future through data-driven decisions,” said Jim Sayer, UMTRI Director. “Working with Utilidata’s technology revealed the need to capture and analyze granular data locally to maximize the benefits EVs can provide to the grid while significantly mitigating risks. We hope this study will serve as a foundation for a more comprehensive research project to further explore how distributed AI can enable a more efficient and reliable grid to support electric transportation.”

UMTRI installed Utilidata’s distributed AI platform, Karman, via electric meter adapters at multiple EV charging stations on the University of Michigan campus to measure grid performance. Vehicle monitoring devices were installed on the EVs of drivers who charge their vehicles at one or more of the selected charging stations to uncover driving and charging behavior. Data was collected for 16 weeks and found that while there is considerable uncertainty around charging behavior and significant impacts to power quality, there is opportunity for EVs to add value to the grid.

Findings from this initial study include:

  • EV charging can cause unexpected rapid swings in current draw which can lead to inefficient energy consumption, resulting in overheated wires, transformer stress and possible outages.
  • Areas with high volumes of unmanaged EV charging are more likely to experience power outages.
  • Utilities need the ability to calculate high resolution measurements with local computation at individual locations to understand which locations can accommodate EV charging.
  • EV charging can cause equipment degradation and possible failure as it lowers power quality by introducing current harmonics generated from the conversion of AC to DC power.
  • With granular real-time data, utilities can manage EV charging in the presence of faults to mitigate the fault impact and facilitate faster recovery.

“It’s clear utilities need tools at the grid edge to fully understand the impact of EV charging in real time. Fortunately, the Karman platform identifies these issues and allows utilities to leverage AI models right at the source of charging to predict, model, and manage EV charging to prevent outages, lower grid costs, and add value to the grid,” said Utilidata CEO Josh Brumberger. “Working with UMTRI allowed us to combine our expertise in AI and the electric grid with UMTRI's expertise in innovation and transportation to identify opportunities and challenges on the grid as EV charging demand increases.”

Utilidata’s distributed AI platform, Karman, is being deployed with utilities to provide real-time visibility of the grid and leverage AI to predict and model grid conditions. This level of visibility and analysis will improve grid reliability and manage distributed energy resources like solar and EVs. Built on a custom module, based on the NVIDIA Jetson Orin edge AI platform, Karman is designed to be embedded into any grid edge device. Aclara, a division of Hubbell Incorporated, is the first meter company to embed Karman in a residential smart meter.

In 2022, Utilidata established an advisory board to bring together executives from utility companies, auto manufacturers, and technology providers to explore ways to leverage grid edge data to solve industry challenges like EV charging demand.

"As EV ownership increases, energy providers need real-time data to manage EV charging demand and provide effective customer programs,” said Ryan Jackson, Consumers Energy’s executive director of corporate strategy and a member of Utilidata's advisory board. “This computing platform can help us deeply analyze the impacts of a variety of EVs and EV chargers. These insights can be incredibly invaluable as we see more EVs connect to the grid."

About Utilidata
Utilidata is an AI-powered technology company providing utilities with robust, real-time insights to operate a connected grid. The company’s distributed AI platform, Karman, provides unparalleled processing power to the electric distribution grid to accelerate decarbonization and better serve people.

UMTRI is a global leader in safe, equitable and efficient transportation research innovation. With partners across academia and sponsors in government and industry, UMTRI remains at the forefront of research innovation to help shape the evolution of a global transportation and mobility system. UMTRI experts focus on large scale data collection, driver behavior, human factors, engineering systems, injury and biomechanics, and are committed to data-driven changes in legislation that will ensure all individuals experience safe, equitable and efficient transportation and mobility options. For more information visit their website.

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