epri-solar-evElectric vehicle charging just went solar at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

The two organizations have come together to build an EV charging station that can make electricity from sunlight, store electricity and put electricity back in the power grid when needed.

The prototype Smart Modal Area Recharge Terminal, or SMART station, developed by TVA and EPRI is among the first public electric vehicle charging stations with all these features. Located at EPRI’s Knoxville Research Laboratory, the station demonstrated its capabilities Tuesday while charging electric vehicles built by General Motors, Mitsubishi and Nissan.

“Electricity as a transportation fuel can benefit the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and it can save consumers money by lowering their driving costs,” said Anda Ray, TVA senior vice president of Environment and Technology. “These all-in-one charging stations are important to the development of electric vehicles and also to TVA’s goal to provide cleaner, low-cost energy.”

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More solar plug-in staions on the way
TVA and EPRI broke ground on the SMART station in June. Oak Ridge National Laboratory and local power companies are partners in the project. A second prototype is being built by the national laboratory in Oak Ridge, about 10 miles away.

The charging stations will be tested for three to six months before additional stations are built in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Nashville and possibly other sites over the next few years. Access to the stations initially will be limited to researchers.

The new solar-powered EV charging station features:

  • Six parking spaces (10-space stations are planned for the future), each supplying enough power to charge most electric vehicles in three to eight hours, depending on the make of the vehicle.
  • An electric plug designated as the industry standard by the Society of Automotive Engineers that will accommodate all future plug-in vehicles made for the U.S. market.
  • About 2 kilowatts of solar photovoltaic panels per charging space.
  • About 5 kilowatt-hours of stationary battery storage per charging space to assist vehicle charging and send power to the grid during periods of peak electricity demand. The batteries also will support the local power grid by lessening the effects of charging multiple cars in one location.
  • Advanced measurement and controls that will collect data about charging electric vehicles.

The SMART stations will be used over time to study various aspects of electric vehicle charging, including consumer behavior, the impact on the electricity system, infrastructure design and development, and testing different stationary batteries. TVA and EPRI also will assess electric vehicles’ potential to reduce greenhouse gases and other pollutants.

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