Researchers Say New Electric Vehicle Charging System Saves Money And Energy For Businesses

Researchers in San Antonio have developed a new system that returns unused energy from alternative vehicle fleets back to the electric grid. Photo courtesy Southwest Research Institute.
A San Antonio-based research group has come up with a new way to manage commercial vehicles that run on alternative energy. Researchers say it can save money while ensuring the state's electric grid stays operating at full capacity.

The Southwest Research Institute has developed a new system that's designed primarily for businesses with large fleets of heavy-duty electric vehicles.  When the electricity grid dips below a certain operating frequency, vehicle charging is suspended. Researcher Sean Mitchum says energy is then returned from the batteries back to the electric grid. 

"There's a bunch of energy stored in the vehicle, but the vehicles don't currently need that energy. And that's part of what this pilot is about, is there a way we can utilize that and still ensure that when the vehicles are needed that they're fully charged and ready to go."

Mitchum says the vehicle-to-grid aggregation system isn't really designed for individual electric car owners. That's because there's only a small amount of energy involved. But with multiple vehicles there's much more stored energy, and returning it to the grid could offset the cost of purchasing an electric fleet.  

"We expect to see that there will be some incentive, economic incentive, to do this and especially when you have collections of fleets together that are all able to aggregate and bid into the market as a combined entity."

The system is the first-of-its-kind to be approved by ERCOT, the operators of the state's electric grid. 

Bio photo of Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

Gail Delaughter joined KUHF in October 2008 as Saturday morning news anchor and host. A native of New Orleans and a graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University, Gail has extensive experience in Texas and Louisiana as a radio news reporter and morning show anchor and co-host...