New online mechanism for electric vehicle charging protects the Grid

May 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Researchers at the University of Southampton have designed a new pricing mechanism that could change the way in which electric vehicles are charged. It is based on an online auction protocol that makes it possible to charge electric vehicles without overloading the local electricity network.

The paper –  Online Mechanism Design for Electric Vehicle Charging – was presented this week at AAMAS 2011,  Tenth Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems, and outlines a system where electric vehicle owners use computerised agents to bid for the power to charge the vehicles and also organise time slots when a vehicle is available for charging.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are expected to place a considerable strain on local electricity distribution networks. If many vehicles charge simultaneously, they may overload the local distribution network, so their charging needs to be carefully scheduled,” said Dr Alex Rogers, University of Southampton computer scientist and one of the authors.

To address this issue, Dr Rogers and his team turned to the field of online mechanism design. They designed a mechanism that allows vehicle owners to specify their requirements (for example, when they need the vehicle and how far they expect to drive). The system then automatically schedules charging of the vehicles’ batteries. The mechanism ensures that there is no incentive to ‘game the system’ by reporting that the vehicle is need earlier than is actually the case, and those users who place a higher demand on the system are automatically charged more than those who can wait.

“The mechanism leaves some available units of electricity un-allocated. This is counter-intuitive since it seems to be inefficient but it turns out to be essential to ensure that the vehicle owners don’t have to delay plugging-in or misreport their requirements, in an attempt to get a better deal,” said Dr Enrico Gerding, the lead author of the paper.

In a study based on the performance of currently available electric vehicles, performed by Dr Valentin Robu and Dr Sebastien Stein, the mechanism was shown to increase the number of electric vehicles that can be charged overnight, within a neighbourhood of 200 homes, by as much as 40 per cent.

The research follows on from Dr Rogers’ and Professor Nick Jennings’ work on developing agents that can trade on the stock market and manage crisis communications and Dr Rogers’ iPhone application, GridCarbon for measuring the carbon intensity of the UK grid.

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Bac2 demonstrates economic production for fuel cells

March 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: News 

Scalable low-volume production method for moulded polymer bipolar plates simplifies processing and cut manufacturing costs

Southampton startup Bac2 is demonstrating moulded bipolar plates for fuel cell stacks that are made using its patented ElectroPhen electrically conductive polymer. The process reduces the cost of fuel cells because they can be moulded for high volume production and is economical to tool-up and mould relatively small quantities of plates, sometimes just a few hundred.

The unique mould-flow approach means that the plates also do not need post-processing, such as surface machining or drilling, after moulding, further reducing costs and cutting waste.

The ElectroPhen bipolar plates are available for many different types of fuel cell stacks, from high-temperature and low-temperature polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM), direct methanol, alkali and phosphoric acid designs. Unlike those made from metal, the plates are chemically inert, do not corrode, will not poison fuel cell electrodes and are rugged enough to withstand the harshest environments. They are made using a simple,
2-stage, mix-and-mould manufacturing process.
In addition to moulded plates, Bac2 supplies blank plates that can be easily machined for fuel cell development work. Blank plates are available from stock.

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