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CEE graduate students win Vehicle-to-Grid University Challenge

4/8/2021 2:51:43 PM

Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash
Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

Two CEE at Illinois graduate students were named winners of Pecan Street’s Vehicle-to-Grid University Challenge. Shanshan (Shirley) Liu and Xi Cheng competed against teams from 26 universities and 11 countries in the challenge to develop a Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) control algorithm that optimizes residential fleets of electric vehicles for grid decarbonization and increased resiliency.

V2G technology is a system in which electric vehicles can both draw power from and return power to a grid. From the Pecan Street press release:

“Liu and Cheng’s model used Pecan Street’s EV data from 50 households in Austin, TX to develop a V2G control model that successfully manages EV charging and discharging when electricity demand is low (valley filling) and when it is high (peak shaving). The team addressed rooftop solar intermittency by building a model that used Pecan Street’s real-world solar and EV charging data to identify when EVs could be used as energy storage systems. This was accomplished by directing vehicles to charge during times of rooftop solar generation and discharge during times of peak energy use in the home. For the fifty-home sample, the team determined that optimizing for rooftop solar production could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by a further 7% compared to regular EV charging, which is already a 67% reduction compared to the average gasoline car. Every one million EVs that adopt optimized charging for rooftop solar production would save 133,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, which is equivalent to taking 26,067 gas-powered passenger vehicles off the road for a year. The team also demonstrated how time-of-use electricity customers could optimize EV charging for additional cost savings and emissions reductions.”

See Pecan Street’s full press release here.

For their winning proposal, the team received a $2,500 award and the opportunity to work with engineers to demonstrate the efficacy of their algorithms using Pecan Street’s V2G demonstration platform. 

“This competition served as a great opportunity for our graduate students to use empirical data and deploy their state-of-the-art mathematical models to solve the problem of battery electric vehicle-to-grid services management,” said their adviser, assistant professor Eleftheria Kontou. “Their recognition exemplifies the broader impacts of their research that can provide answers to real-world industry challenges.”