► Audi's plans to save the grid
► Designed to ease pressure at peak times
► Charging can be staggered to spread the load
Audi has developed an innovative new generation of smart power meters that could help avoid the growing electric car fleet crashing local power distribution grids at peak times – a serious worry as EV sales outstrip the charging infrastructure.
The new grid-optimised charging system establishes ‘intelligent’ communication between electric vehicles, households and the power suppliers, through a network of Smart Meter Gateways (SMGs) that relay critical information regarding energy requirements and demand.
With this real-time data, the system identifies high load periods on the distribution network and staggers the delivery of power on an individual basis, eliminating a spike caused by multiple EVs being plugged in at the same time.
Audi electric cars: what you need to know
It’s the same problem sometimes encountered on hot days when many households switch on air-conditioning simultaneously – normally at the time large numbers of commuters are returning home from work.
Audi’s solution has one key difference. While the cooling effect of air-conditioning is required immediately, Audi’s system recognises that electric vehicles do not necessarily need to commence charging as soon as they are connected to the power supply.
The system effectively creates an adaptable roster during which the connected vehicles all receive power, but not at the same time.
One potential problem with that approach concerns vehicles with large battery capacities and longer charging times, requiring continuous charging overnight to receive their maximum range. But Audi has a solution to this.
Customers who are able to charge their EVs at work, for example, would be offered electricity rate discounts to partially or fully top up their battery during the day and eliminate the need for a full eight-hour connection each evening.
That option might not work for everyone but the German car manufacturer says it will only be necessary in a minority of cases. Overload simulations and testing conducted by Audi have demonstrated the system has the potential to keep everyone happy.
'The electric car uses downtime to fully charge with dynamic charging capacity adjustment, while also relieving the power grid without restricting the customers' mobility needs,' Audi says.
Fundamental to the scheme is making sure all the components in the chain are communicating using the same code, forming a highly secure data stream.
In collaboration with the other system stakeholders, Audi is developing its electric models to seamlessly plug in. That includes the current E-Tron, which is already being manufactured with the software needed to connect.
Further electric car reading
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